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DOJ orders release of Marawi vice mayor tagged in Marawi siege

Prosecutor says suspect to go through preliminary investigation

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the release of Marawi City Vice Mayor Arafat Salic, who was arrested Wednesday on allegations of rebellion.

Salic was brought before the DOJ Friday morning supposedly for inquest proceedings for his alleged role in the Marawi siege almost two years ago, but Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said such procedure is not proper in the suspect’s case. 

Under the Rules of Court, an inquest in cases of warrantless arrests is only proper when suspects are caught in the act of committing or about to commit a crime, or those caught following hot pursuit.

Ong ordered Salic’s release and his case will now go through regular preliminary investigation, where parties will have to submit affidavits and counter-affidavits.

The Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and the military arrested Salic on Wednesday on the basis of a martial law administrator arrest order where his name was included. 

But Ong pointed out that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the martial law administrator, had himself revoked the arrest order.

In presenting Salic to the DOJ, the police and the military had 3 witnesses who allegedly saw Salic holding a high-powered firearm with 7 to 8 men shouting ‘Allahu Akbar.’

But upon Ong’s examination, the witnesses’ testimonies differed from those in their affidavits. At one point, Ong told a witness upfront not to lie.

There were also inconsistencies regarding the distance from where the witnesses supposedly saw Salic, the date and time, and the presence of a flag of the Maute group, the Islamic State-linked militant organization that led the 5-month siege. 

Firefights between state troops and Maute terrorists erupted in Marawi City May 23, 2017, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

The siege ended in October 2017 with nearly a thousand militants dead, including Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was regarded as the emir of Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and Maute terror group leaders Omar and Abdullah Maute.

The conflict left much of Marawi City in rubble. Government has initiated a multibillion-peso rebuilding effort in the city.