MANILA – Some of the widows of the “SAF 44” personally wrote to concerned government authorities to request for an amendment or repeal of a provision of Republic Act (RA) 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) that mandates the payment or indemnification of PHP500,000 for every day a person acquitted of terrorism charges is imprisoned or detained.
This was revealed in the soon-to-be-released book titled “SAF 44”, written by former Tarlac governor and Philippine Army reserve colonel Margarita “Tingting” R. Cojuangco.
Some of the “SAF 44” widows found this provision “anathema” to the underlying constitutional policy of affording protection to life, liberty, and property that they decided to air their concerns to Solicitor General Jose Calida and members of Congress to repeal this provision of the law.
These women also found the atrocities resulting from acts of terrorism “despicable.”
“It is beyond telling that the crime of terrorism, in every facet, grievous, and its effect, severe and serious, compared to crimes defined and penalized under the Revised Penal Code. It is therefore beyond comprehension that the persons charged, or would be charged under RA 9372, would eventually be acquitted (since the elements are hard to prove) and receive as much as PHP500,000 for every day of imprisonment, when the indemnification under RA 7309 is only up to PHP10,000,” SAF 44 widows Merlyn Gamutan, Rachel Sumbilla, Adelisa Bedua, Kristine Clemencio, Mimi Tayrus, Lhea Tabdi, Margaret Tulnuan, and Melanie Duque said in their letter.
This portion of the letter was contained in parts of the book forwarded by Cojuangco to the Philippine News Agency Tuesday.
The widows were referring to Republic Act 7309 mandating the creation of a ‘Board of Claims’ under the Department of Justice for victims of unjust imprisonment or detention and victims of violent crimes.
The fallen SAF troopers died in the infamous Mamasapano clash in 2015.
Section 4 of the law states that the “in all other cases, the maximum amount for which the Board may approve a claim shall not exceed PHP10,000 or the amount necessary to reimburse the claimant the expenses incurred for hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage, loss of support or other expenses directly related to injury, whichever is lower.”
Meanwhile, Section 50 of the HSA stipulates that the amount of damages shall be automatically charged against the appropriations of the police agency or the Anti-Terrorism Council that brought or sanctioned the filing of the charges against the accused.
“Our laws should mean to deter wrongdoing, and its penalty is a discouragement for the commission of crimes ahead. In the same manner, our laws, to be effective, should be just and fair for everyone. Our laws should not be the source of exaltation and refuge for known terrorists and criminals. Along this line, we respectfully move the amendment/repeal of Section 50 of Republic Act 9372 be proposed and duly endorsed,” the widows said in their letter.
“SAF 44” refers to the 44 members of the Philippine National Police SAF killed-in-action during the operation launched to neutralize Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkifli Abdhir alias “Marwan” and other Malaysian terrorists in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
Aside from the SAF troopers, the 12-hour gun battle left 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters forces and five civilians dead. (PNA)