Justice drops raps vs 2 terror suspects
THE Department of Justice has dismissed the criminal complaint filed by the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines against an alleged recruiter of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and his live-in Filipina partner.
In a resolution, the DoJ through Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong dismissed for lack of merit the illegal possession of explosive devices and firearms complaint filed by Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office against Tunisian national Fehmi Lassqued and his partner Anabel Salipada.
“After a careful review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by the parties, the undersigned finds no probable cause to charge respondents for violations of R.A. 10591 and R.A. No. 9516,” stated the resolution.
In a related development:
• National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Wednesday the ISIS Philippines included in the US government’s watch list of foreign terrorist organizations was not an organized group.
“I do not think they were referring to an ISIS Philippines that is an organized group,” Esperon said in a forum in Manila.
Esperon said the term ISIS Philippines referred to individuals who might have attempted to set up an ISIS province in the Philippines.
“It is also to signify that there are forces that are attempting or are currently here, working from the ideology of violent extremism,” he added, noting they were keeping a close eye on these elements.
The US Treasury Department added ISIS Philippines along with the ISIS-inspired Maute group, one of the groups responsible for the Marawi siege in the last half of 2017, along with two individuals and five organizations in Asia and Africa to its sanctions list.
At the same time, Esperon said there was “no point” in ending martial law in Mindanao, which started May of last year following the occupation of Marawi City by the pro-ISIS Maute terrorist group.
“We requested for the extension of martial law for the rest of the year, so I think there’s no point in ending martial law that we requested,” Esperon said at the Kapehan sa Cafe Adriatico forum in Manila.
Amid fears that it may lead to human rights abuses similar to the martial law declared during the Marcos administration from 1972 and lifted in 1981, Esperon said the one imposed in Mindanao “is not the kind of martial law we know.”
“Remember that local governments and executives are functioning and in their positions, the military has not taken over the civilian functions,” he said.
Local officials and executives during the imposition of martial law from 1972 to 1981 were functioning.
Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon approved the resolution.
“Basic and well-established is the rule that the party alleging has the burden of substantiating his allegation and any declaration or assertion not so substantiated is, at best, a self-serving statement or declaration which is inadmissible in evidence for being hearsay,” it stressed.
Lassqued and Salipada were arrested in Ermita, Manila last Feb. 16 by the PNP and the Philippine Army, pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
The charge sheet signed by Supt. Carlito Narag Jr., RPIOU chief, sought the indictment of the suspects for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516.
It cited as evidence the explosive devices seized from the couple during their arrest, including four pipes, two batteries, three capacitors, two integrated circuits, three battery clips, and 11 resistors and also the .45-caliber pistol and ammunitions recovered from them.
Both Lassqued and Salipada denied the allegations in separate counter-affidavits filed through the assistance of public attorneys.
In his counter-affidavit, Lassqued said contrary to the police claim, he was not arrested in Ermita, Manila but at Ayala Triangle on Feb. 16, while he was taking his cigarette break from his Spanish class.
“Even if the subject gun, ammunitions and other items will be subjected to finger print examinations, my marks cannot be found there because I never touched it, held it or possessed it,” Lassqued said.
“I don’t know the reason why I am being arrested by the police officers. I was shocked to know later at the inquest that I am being charged for violations of Republic Act 10951 or illegal possession of firearm and ammunition and RA 9516 or illegal possession of explosives,” he added.
For her part, Salipada also denied owning the explosive devices and the firearm.
She said when the police searched their apartment in Manila, she was taken and held outside the apartment.
Ong said that among the evidence presented, both the suspects and the arresting officers admitted that the five photographs of the seized items taken inside Room 409 but did not include the arresting officers and the suspects.
In his resolution, Ong observed that two other photographs which showed the suspects with the seized items were not taken inside Room 409 due “to the difference between the backgrounds of said photographs and earlier five photographs.”
“Furthermore, a perusal of the two photographs labeled as ‘Photograph of the arrested suspect and the confiscated evidence’ suggest that these pictures were taken in a place other than Room 409, since their background are different from those in the five photographs without respondent Lassoued,” Ong stressed.
“This supports the story of respondents that Fehmi Lassqued was not present inside Room 409, on February 16, 2018, during the implementation of SW M. 18-003, and further support Fehmi Lassqued’s story that he was later brought to an unfamiliar room with the seized articles,” he said.
The investigating fiscal also found out that that Salipada was brought by authorities to the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center on Feb. 17 for medical examination, while Lassqued was taken to the Army General Hospital in Fort Andres Bonifacio on Feb. 18.
“Finally, the fact that both respondents underwent medical examination at two different places and on two different occasions suggests that they were arrested in separate places at different times,” he said.