Criminal raps vs Aquino
Ombudsman files case over SAF 44 massacre
THE Ombudsman on Wednesday filed graft and usurpation of authority charges at the Sandiganbayan against former President Benigno Aquino III over the January 2015 Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police Special Action Force commandos were killed.
The filing of charges against Aquino came in the wake of the indictment of his co-accused, dismissed National Police chief Alan Purisima and sacked SAF commander Getulio Napeñas.
Graft and usurpation of authority are criminal offenses under law.
However, Aquino was the only respondent in the two cases because Purisima and Napeñas are already facing the same charges at the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division.
The Ombudsman recommended a total bail of P40,000 on Aquino’s case: P30,000 for graft and P10,000 for usurpation of official function.
The Ombudsman, however, dropped the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide filed by the relatives of the slain SAF troopers, citing a lack of evidence.
The 44 SAF commandos were killed in the day-long gun battles that followed a covert operation that killed Malaysian bomb maker Sulkifli binhir, alias Marwan.
The Ombudsman said Aquino should be held crimnally liable for allowing Purisima to direct the operation, dubbed Oplan Exodus, even if he was suspended.
“Aquino fully knew that Purisima was under preventive suspension from office and that it was Officer-In-Charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina who had the authority to oversee the preparation for and conduct of Oplan Exodus, to the damage of public interest,” the charge sheet read.
The Ombudsman submitted to the Sandiganbayan evidence against Aquino, which include text messages between Aquino and Purisima.
The Ombudsman said Aquino had received information from Purisima as shown in text messages presented during the Senate inquiry on the massacre.
This, despite Purisima’s suspension at the time over the alleged anomalous courier service deal that was contracted by the PNP during his watch.
Aquino filed a motion for reconsideration where he defended his action to entrust the operation to the suspended Purisima.
But the Ombudsman junked the motion, as well as another one filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption to reconsider the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino.
President Rodrigo Duterte said this was one of the rare instances when he agreed with his top critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, that Aquino should not be indicted for usurpation of authority.
“For the first time or for the second or third time, Trillanes has a good point there,” Duterte told reporters before leaving for Da Nang in Vietnam.
“The President has supervision and control,” he said. Since Aquino was the commander-in-chief at the time, there was nothing to usurp.
You cannot usurp what is inherently your duty,” he added.
In previous speeches, Duterte blamed Aquino for the massacre, citing reports that the government, through the advice of then-peace adviser Teresita Deles, decided not to send military reinforcement to the SAF troopers in Mamasapano to preserve a ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
In July, the President scored the charges filed against Aquino by the Ombudsman, calling them “silly.”
“It was a silly charge. That charge will fail,” Duterte said. “It was a stupid decision.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the filing of charges was expected, after an earlier resolution issued by the Ombudsman.
“So that is part of the process. So that is expected. It would be a surprise if the Ombudsman did not file it because that is not consistent—non-filing would not be in accordance with the procedure,” Drilon said.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said his cousin, the former president, had been open about his participation in the Mamasapano operation.
“I am confident he will face the case with full courage and honesty,” he said.