MANILA – The Department of Justice began Monday the preliminary investigation of the cases of murder and kidnapping lodged against the Maute brothers and other members of the Maute Group, whose May 23 siege of Marawi City continues to render much of the once-progressive Islamic city uninhabitable.
The first batch of charges being heard by DOJ involves the kidnapping of six sawmill workers in Butig, Lanao del Sur in April, and the beheading of two of the six captives.
The abduction took place April 4 and the beheadings, on April 10.
Present at the hearing at the DOJ in Manila were the victims who had escaped captivity and the relatives of those who were beheaded – identified as Jaymark Kapampangan and Salvador Hanubos.
The only respondent who appeared at the hearing was Dr. Russel Salic.
The complainants pointed to Salic as a cohort of the Mautes. He is described as a physician tending to the Maute Group.
Some of the enraged victim-complainants wanted to strike out at Salic, but were restrained by DOJ security.
Dr. Salic failed to submit his counter-affidavit, and asked the DOJ to extend the deadline to August 23 – a request that was granted.
According to Salic, he could not craft an affidavit because some key documents he needs are in Cagayan de Oro.
He denied the accusations. “It is a big lie. Fabricated!” he blurted out.
Senior assistant state prosecutor Peter Ong said investigation showed the Maute Group had suspected the sawmill workers of being government spies.
Their abduction was part of the second wave of attacks by the group, after their rampage in Butig town. As the government forces poured into Butig and nearby areas to try and neutralize them there, the brothers and their followers staged the Marawi siege instead, sparking a deadly urban warfare that forced government to mount air strikes that have destroyed a huge part of the city.
Prosecutor Ong said the owner of the sawmill is being treated as a cohort of the Mautes, too, and has also been charged.
Former Marawi Mayor Pre Salic is also listed among the respondents.
The pick-up truck where the abducted sawmill workers were transported had the marking of “Pre”.
Ong narrated the grim details of the workers’ fate: “Dinukot po sila noong April 4, then pinalakad from Sandab. Sinakay sila sa pickup. May tatak na Pre. Kay Mayor Salic. Dinala sila sa Barangay Puktan. On the sixth day, ang dalawa pinugutan na [They were taken on April 4 and made to walk from Barangay Sandab. Then they were loaded on a pickup with the marking ‘Pre’. That’s Mayor Salic. They were brought to Barangay Puktan. On the sixth day, the two were beheaded].”
Meanwhile, the victims insisted that Dr. Salic is also in cahoots with the Mautes, based on testimony of the captives who escaped that they saw the physician inside the Maute camp in Barangay Puktan, Butig town.
“When they were abducted, theyir hands were bound. They saw Dr. Salic there, cleaning his gun and guarding them. He was with Maute members,” Ong said
The DOJ set the next hearing on Aug. 23.