NEWSFLASH

MISUARI ARRAIGNMENT TOMORROW AT FORT SANTIAGO

MANILA, January 8, 2003 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla  - An attempt by former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Nur Misuari to have his rebellion case reinvestigated was denied yesterday by the Department of Justice (DOJ) after he failed to show that investigating prosecutors were biased against him.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito ZuŮo said Misuari will be arraigned tomorrow at 8 a.m. as scheduled at the special courthouse built for his trial at Fort Sto. Domingo, the police Special Action Force training camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

In a three-page resolution, acting Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez said Misuari and his lawyers "failed to attach" the complaint and other supporting documents to show that the prosecutors had been partial.

"Such omission is fatal because the same is a sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition (for review)," the resolution said.

"Besides, nowhere in the petition do we find any cogent reason which would warrant a reversal of the assailed resolution. Section 6 of the DOJ Circular 70 (of the National Prosecution Service) provides that failure to comply with such requirements shall constitute sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition," it said.

As early as March last year, the Supreme Court has given the go-signal for Misuariís arraignment and trial, but the former governor had raised several legal issues.

Defense lawyers have also sought a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Misuari on the ground that prosecutors have not filed charges against him in court.

Misuari and seven of his men have been held criminally liable after his followers attacked an army camp in Sulu in November 2001.

The case is being heard by Judge Norberto Gonzales of the Calamba City regional trial court.

Misuariís arraignment was postponed thrice last year.

Last March, the Supreme Court ordered the start of Misuariís trial after the Philippine National Police completed construction of the courthouse at Fort Sto. Domingo.

In a resolution, the justices ordered the executive judge of Calamba City to "conduct the trial and hearing" of the case within "the premises" of the special courthouse.

The Supreme Court approved in January last year the justice departmentís request to move Misuariís rebellion trial from Jolo, Sulu to Calamba, Laguna.

In Jolo, followers of Misuari are trying to rally their comrades to return to the mountains to resume their anti-government campaign.

Col. Susulan Salapuddin, deputy military commander in Jolo, said a Misuari partisan was given a safe-conduct pass by the military last Jan. 4 to try to convince his comrades to surrender.

However, Ustadz Bashiri Jailani, a resident of Basilan, has urged Misuariís followers to take up arms against the government again.

Salapuddin told them a delegation from the Organization of Islamic Conference will arrive in Jolo to work for the independence of Mindanao.

About 300 armed Misuari followers have been going around Jolo in a convoy of vehicles, which could lead to an outbreak of violence, he added. Ė With AFP


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