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SC says no decision yet on transfer of Maute cases

(UPDATED) The Supreme Court issues the statement after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II says his request to move Maute cases to Taguig City will likely be approved

MAUTE TRANSFER. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II says on June 19, 2017 that his request to transfer Maute Group cases to Taguig City will likely be approved, but Supreme Court Spokesperson Theodore Te later clarifies there is no decision yet. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) clarified on Monday, June 19, that the en banc has not yet approved Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s request to transfer Maute Group cases from Cagayan de Oro City to the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

SC Spokesman Theodore Te had to issue this clarification because Aguirre told reporters earlier that morning that based on his meeting with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the High Court would likely agree to the transfer.

Aguirre even said that because the arrested Maute Group members will be detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, their trial can be held in the facilities there instead of in courtrooms. This, he said, would be good for security.

"Katatapos lang ng meeting with CJ Lourdes Sereno, maganda naman napagusapan namin. So in all probability, instead of… rather than holding the trial at the Taguig RTC, do’n na mismo sa loob ng jail gagawin ang trial para mas secure, so hindi na pupunta do’n sa Taguig RTC, do’n na mismo sa loob ng jail ng SICA (Special Intensive Care Area)," Aguirre said.

(My meeting with CJ Lourdes Sereno just ended, we had a good chat. So in all probability, instead of… rather than holding the trial at the Taguig RTC, it can be held right inside the jail facilities so it’ll be more secure, so they don’t have to go to the Taguig RTC, it can be held right inside the SICA.)

Aguirre added: "We agreed to establish at least two courtrooms. Sa loob ng Taguig SICA, kasi may napagusapan daw sila ni [former] Secretary Roxas noon na mag-e-establish ng courtroom sa SICA. Hindi niya (Sereno) sigurado kung nagawa ‘yun pero kahit nagawa daw ‘yun, sabi niya baka puwedeng additional one more courtroom."

(We agreed to establish at least two courtrooms. The trial would be held inside the SICA because I was told there were discussions with former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II about establishing a courtroom inside SICA. She isn’t sure if that’s already been done but I was told maybe there could be an additional courtroom.)

However, Te said: "What I know from the meeting earlier between the Secretary and Chief Justice is that the Chief Justice discussed the letter with the Secretary and I think the agreement was the Secretary would supplement the letter."

Reporters had asked Aguirre repeatedly whether the "decision" was a result of his meeting with Sereno on Monday morning, and he said yes.

"Do’n na rin, kaya nga titignan ko kung meron nang courtroom doon. Gusto niya (Sereno) dalawa so we would be calling the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) kung makakapag-establish ng other courtroom," Aguirre said.

(It’ll be held there, that’s why I’ll see if there’s already a courtroom there. Chief Justice Sereno wants two so we would be calling the BJMP to see if they can establish another courtroom.)

Aguirre added that he would reorganize the panels of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"I’m going to reorganize my panels kasi (because) the panel is composed of Manila prosecutors, Metro Manila prosecutors who should undergo immediate training. Inoffer sa’kin ni Chief Justice ang use ng(The Chief Justice offered the use of) PHILJA (Philippine Judicial Academy) facilities for this immediate training of Maute prosecutors," he said.

Aguirre had written Sereno to reconsider moving the venue of detention and trial to Taguig City, after the SC designated Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao as opposed to Aguirre’s original request for a courtroom in Luzon or the Visayas.

Asked for confirmation whether the Taguig City request has indeed been approved, Te said there is no resolution on the matter, so far.

"The designation of the Cagayan de Oro courts to try and handle the Maute Group incidents stays because the court has not yet acted or granted the Secretary’s letter asking for a consideration. It usually does that during an en banc session, but there was no en banc last week because of the oral arguments [on martial law]," Te said.

He emphasized that a matter like that would not be decided by Sereno alone, but by all the SC justices in an en banc session.

Te added: "I really don’t know how they would act on it. If there’s a letter, it would be tackled during the en banc. Until they say otherwise, the resolution stands."

Aguirre also clarified in a text message to Rappler on Monday afternoon that his request has yet to be approved. – Rappler.com