February 23, 2018, 6:39 pm
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Aquino faces criminal raps over Mamasapano incident

CRIMINAL charges were filed before the Sandiganbayan yesterday against former President Benigno S. Aquino III for his alleged unlawful acts in allowing his suspended PNP chief to participate in the planning, conduct, and implementation of “Oplan Exodus” that ended in a bloodbath in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.

Aquino was charged with one count each of violations of Section 3 (a) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code defining usurpation of official functions.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the criminal information for filing against Aquino on November 3. Both crimes are punishable by jail terms should the anti-graft court find the defendant guilty.

Assistant special prosecutor Reza M. Casila-Derayunan recommended bail bonds of P30,000 for the graft case and P10,000 for usurpation of official functions.

There was no immediate reaction from Aquino but his Liberal Party said in a statement: “He will clear his name in court and prove he is innocent of the charges. We believe the court will afford him due process and fair trial.”

Partymate Rep. Teddy Baguilat (Ifugao) said he and his fellow allies have “utmost confidence that he can beat this attempt to sully his legacy.”

“We will respect the process and we believe President Noy will be able to ably defend himself from charges which we believe are legally infirm. The LP stands behind him and supports his position that his acts then did not constitute a crime punishable under our laws,” he said.

In the graft case, Aquino was accused of ignoring the fact that Alan Purisima was suspended on Dec. 10, 2014 by the Ombudsman on a corruption complaint. It said Aquino unlawfully induced or influenced Purisima to violate the PNP chain of command, the suspension order, and the authority of then PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina.

Prosecutors said Aquino, by using the services of the suspended Purisima, paved the way for him to participate in the “preparation, conduct, and implementation of Oplan Exodus” for the capture or neutralization of foreign terrorist bomber Zulkifli Abdhir alias “Marwan” and Akmad Ahmad Batabol alias “Basit Usman.”

According to the charge sheet, it was Purisima who gave instructions to, and received reports and recommendations from PNP-Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas.

In the process, Aquino and Purisima eased out Espina and then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas even if they had the authority to oversee the preparation and conduct of Oplan Exodus, the Ombudsman said.

In the case of usurpation of official functions, Aquino was accused of acting in conspiracy with Purisima and Napeñas when the suspended PNP chief assumed an official position he was not entitled to, in participating in the discussion and planning of Oplan Exodus.

Investigators said Aquino’s criminal liability was shown when he entrusted to Purisima the job of coordinating the execution of Oplan Exodus with the Armed Forces and “communicating exclusively with Purisima” to the exclusion of Espina.

The PNP-Special Action Force succeeded in neutralizing Marwan on Jan. 25, 2015 but a botched extraction resulted in the government troops being trapped in an open field where 44 of them ended up being killed by hostile forces.

The Ombudsman listed as witnesses for the prosecution Dennis L. Garcia, field investigation officer of the Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices, and Supt. Hendrix Mangaldan, the designated ground commander for Oplan Exodus.

Mangaldan is now deputy for operations of the Pasig City police.

USURPATION

President Duterte said a sitting president has supervision and control over almost all things in government, including operations of the uniformed services, thus he has authority over almost all things related to government.

Duterte, at a pre-departure conference for Vietnam, was asked about his opinion on the charges of graft and usurpation of authority.

“… You know, the President has the supervision and control. Supervision and control means he can overturn your decision or will decide to exercise the function itself... So if the main figure overrules the shadow, usurpation of authority… usurpation of authority. You cannot usurp what is inherently your duty,” he said.

In July this year, Duterte defended Aquino from the Ombudsman’s finding of criminal negligence and said it was a “silly” decision to charge Aquino with usurpation of authority for consulting Purisima about the operation.

He said Aquino’s actions were justified because he was the commander-in-chief and therefore had full authority and discretion over any police or military operation.

The Ombudsman approved the recommendation to indict Aquino last June  based on the finding that he illegally allowed Purisima to participate in the planning of Oplan Exodus and to run the operation.

Aquino filed an appeal in July. The Ombudsman affirmed its findings last September. – With Wendell Vigilia and Jocelyn Montemayor
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