VOTING 15-0, the Supreme Court yesterday upheld the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman finding no probable cause to charge former President Benigno Aquino III, former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-SAF head Getulio Napenas with reckless imprudence resulting to homicide in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano encounter.
“The court held that the Ombudsman did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing the complaints for 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide filed against private respondents,” the SC said.
“Wherefore, the petition is dismissed. The Ombudsman’s consolidated resolution dated June 13, 2017 and consolidated order dated September 5, 2017 are affirmed insofar as they found no probable cause to charge private respondents Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, Alan Purisima and Getulio Napenas with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide,” it added.
SC Public Information Office Chief Brian Hosaka said the magistrates voted unanimously to dismiss the petition for certiorari filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
The case stemmed from the January 25, 2015 operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by elite PNP-SAF commandos to get wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan was killed in the operation but the SAF commandos were attacked by combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups, triggering a day-long firefight that left 44 commandos dead.
Only PO2 Christopher Lalan survived the firefight. Eighteen MILF fighters were also confirmed killed in the battle.
Investigation conducted by the PNP headed by then Gen. Benjamin Magalong cited poor planning, as well as lack of coordination with military units in the area and the MILF, with whom the government has a ceasefire agreement, as the reason behind the botched operation.
It also found the inclusion of Purisima, who at that time was on preventive suspension, affected the chain of command of the PNP.
Last August 7, the SC lifted the temporary restraining order it earlier issued on the trial of the criminal case against Aquino, Purisima and Napenas before the Sandiganbayan.
In 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman indicted Aquino, Purisima and Napenas for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (graft and usurpation of authority) for their role in the Mamasapano operation.
The charges against Aquino, Purisima and Napenas were filed before the Sandiganbayan in November 2017 during the time of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
But relatives and family members of the slain SAF commandos petitioned the High Court asking that Aquino be charged instead with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. They were supported in their petition by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Calida said Morales disregarded the sufficiency of the evidence against the former president when she indicted him instead for graft and usurpation of authority.
The SC issued the TRO in February 7, 2018 just before Aquino, Purisima and Napenas were to be arraigned on the reckless imprudence case.