Aquino posts bail; court issues hold-departure order
THE Sandiganbayan on Friday stopped former President Benigno Aquino III from leaving the country after he posted a P40,000 bail in connection with the graft and usurpation of authority charges filed against him by the Ombudsman, one of his appointees during his term.
Aquino paid a courtesy call on Sandiganbayan Third Division Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tan, an Aquino appointee, that will try the case.
Aquino underwent regular booking procedures and had his mug shots and fingerprints taken by Sandiganbayan personnel.
Under the hold departure order issued by the anti-graft court against Aquino, the former chief executive cannot leave the country without the court’s permission.
An appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III to the Sandiganbayan who will handle his Mamasapano cases will not recuse from hearing the case.
“All of us here had been appointees of former presidents but more than just gratefulness to those who appointed us, we have a sworn duty and that should be the foremost consideration—to render justice,
as justice should be dispensed without fear or favor,” Cabotaje-Tang, chairperson of Sandiganbayan Third Division, told reporters after the criminal cases filed against Aquino at the Sandiganbayan were raffled off to her division.
“No, [I will not inhibit]. The court will never shirk from its responsibility to dispense justice. There are legal grounds for inhibition and having been appointed by the accused before is not one of the legal grounds for inhibition,” Tang said.
Aside from Tang, Aquino also appointed Sandiganbayan Third Division member and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez who is also the chairperson of the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division while President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez, a member of the Third Division.
The Ombudsman filed last Wednesday graft and usurpation of authority charges at the Sandiganbayan against Aquino III over the January 2015 Mamasapano, Maguindanao, carnage that resulted in the killing of 44 police special action force troopers.
At a news conference, the former President said he could not “disclose their other [legal] plans” after the filing of the cases before the Sandiganbayan.
“I do not want to help them [court] to make things difficult for me. Our plans are just within among ourselves. There are so many technical terminologies. Let us not discuss about them,” he said.
When asked to react over the plan of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption to file reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide charges against him, Aquino said “I can show you some slides that I tried to reduce the risks.”
He blamed former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas for the botched operation in implementing Oplan
Exodus, the January 2015 operation that led to the deaths of the SAF.
“Why blame him? Was it wrong to tell them to get support? Wasn’t it his obligation [to ensure that everything would work out well]?”
He said he was deeply hurt when one of the fathers of the slain SAF troopers was blaming him for negligence.
The cases were filed when Aquino allegedly allowed then National Police chief Alan Purisima to direct the implementation of Oplan Exodus against Malaysian bomb maker Sulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, although Purisima was suspended at that time.
The Ombudsman subsequently dismissed Purisima from the service and charged him with graft and usurpation before the anti-graft court.
The filing of charges against Aquino followed the indictment of his co-accused Purisima and Napeńas.
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.
Tang said they “will study whether there is a need to consolidate [the cases] in light of the fact that there were previous cases already filed against [Napeñas] and [Purisima], and that if these cases filed against the former president actually arose from the same facts and circumstances.”
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.
However, the charges of reckless imprudence that were filed by relatives of the 44 police fatalities were dropped for lack of evidence.
The 44 SAF commandos were killed in the day-long gun battles that followed the operation that killed Malaysian bomb maker Sulkifli binhir, alias Marwan.
The Ombudsman said Aquino should be held criminally liable for allowing Purisima to direct the operation, dubbed Oplan Exodus, even if he was suspended.
The Ombudsman submitted to the Sandiganbayan evidence against Aquino which include text messages between Aquino and Purisima.
Meanwhile, kin and supporters of Aquino III flocked to his residence on Times Street, Barangay West Triangle in Quezon City Friday afternoon.
Sisters Balsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada and Viel Aquino-Dee, along with former deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda were among the first people who arrived to show support for the embattled former president.
Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino, Francis Pangilinan and Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party also went to the area.
Former singer-actress Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement, and Representatives Edgar Erice of Caloocan City and Jorge Banal of Quezon City were also there.