Doctor in foiled NY terror plot, 53 Maute members face criminal raps

MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed criminal charges against 54 suspected Maute members, including the doctor being linked to a local terror group allegedly behind the abduction of six persons, two of whom were beheaded in Lanao del Sur in 2016.

In a 23-page resolution dated Dec. 12, 2017 but was released to media only on Tuesday, the DOJ filed four counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with murder against Dr. Russel Langi Salic and 53 other individuals suspected of being members of the Maute terrorist group before Branch 11 of the Regional Trial Court of Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

Apart from Salic, three other respondents have also been arrested and detained, namely, TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendell Apostol Facturan, and Musalli Musta.

The three are detained at the Davao City Jail.

The cases stemmed from the complaints of Gabriel Tomatao Permitis, Alfredo Sarsalejo Cano-os, Esperanza Permitis, Adonis Antipisto Mendez, and Julito Permitis Janubas, who were all abducted by the Maute group while working in a sawmill in Butig, Lanao del Sur on April 4, 2016.

Two of their co-workers identified by the authorities as Jaymart Capangpangan and Salvador Janubas were beheaded six days after the kidnapping.

“Criminal liability exists, notwithstanding non-participation in every detail in the execution of the crime… Where conspiracy has been established, it is unnecessary to pinpoint who among the accused inflicted the fatal blow… The inaction of a respondent where he could have prevented the crime only reveal his complicity thereto,” read the resolution signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, recommended approval by OIC-Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Amor L. Robles, and approved by acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan.

“After a careful review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by the parties, the undersigned finds probable cause to charge respondents,” the resolution stated.

According to the complainants, Salic was with the group who abducted them, and the group later said they were members of the Maute and allied with the terror group Islamic State.

Likewise, they said they also saw him talking with Cayamora and Farhana Maute, parents of the leaders of the Maute group.

Salic has denied the allegation, saying that on the date cited by the complainants, he was working as a resident physician at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City.

He said that on April 5, 2016, he attended the 26th Philippine Orthopedic Association Mid-Year Convention in Palawan and that he returned to Cagayan de Oro on April 10 of the same year.

However, the DOJ sided with the claim of the complainants, saying that after a review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by both parties, they found probable cause to indict Salic and the other respondents.

The DOJ said Salic’s negative assertion could not prevail over the testimony of the complainants who described in sufficient detail his active participation in the commission of the crimes.

“Respondent Salic’s arguments that complainants’ accusations are fabrication and based on hearsay, and that they were coached to implicate him, deserve scant consideration,” the resolution added.

Salic, 37, is among three people who are facing charges in the US for allegedly plotting attacks in New York City.

The US government is also seeking Salic’s extradition on allegation that he helped fund a plot that included attacks on Manhattan’s Times Square and the city’s subway.

The allegation against Salic was based on the testimony of Canadian El Bahnasawy who was arrested in New Jersey in May 2016 and pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. He described Salic as “Abu Khalid” a trusted supporter of Islamic State.

Last October, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the DOJ was set to process the extradition request from the United States for Salic.

Aguirre said US court documents showed that Salic, an orthopedic surgeon by profession, allegedly sent money to help plan the terror attacks.

US authorities said they uncovered a plot by Salic and two other Islamic State sympathizers -Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy and Talha Haroon, both 19 – to carry out terrorist attacks in locations in New York City, including concert venues, subway stations and Times Square in the summer of 2016.

Salic has been detained at the National Bureau of Investigation since April.