The families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos slain in the 2015 Mamasapano encounter will not participate in the proceedings for cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of the SAF 44, said the families refuse to join the proceedings as a “sign of disgust and protest.”
Earlier this week, the Office of the Ombudsman filed graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino in connection with the botched “Oplan Exodus” that killed 44 police commandos.
This was after the Ombudsman denied Aquino’s appeal to drop the charges last month. However, the same time, it also junked the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides against Aquino—which were filed by SAF 44 families—due to the “lack of probable cause.”
“As a sign of disgust and protest, the SAF 44 parents and the VACC (Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption) will not participate in the sham proceedings initiated by Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan,” Topacio said in a statement.
“Instead, we shall continue to pursue the attainment of justice for the 44 heroes,” he added.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the raps against the former president on Wednesday, November 8, at the Sandiganbayan, and has recommended a P30,000 bail for graft and P10,000 bail for usurpation charges.
In the information sheet of the usurpation of authority charge, Ombudsman Assistant Special Prosecutor Reza Casila-Derayunan claimed that Aquino “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” allowed then-dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima to participate at the planning of the operation.
In the separate information sheet for the graft charge, the prosecutor said Aquino “allowed himself to be persuaded, induced, or influence” to violate the PNP chain of command, and preventive suspension order against Purisima.
The prosecutor further claimed that Aquino knew “fully well” that it was and officer-in-charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina who had the authority “to oversee the preparation and conduct of Oplan Exodus, to the damage and prejudice of the State.”
The former president was charged with violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3109 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and of usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
Similar cases have also been filed against Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) head Getulio Napeñas.
Section 3(a) of RA 3019 states that it is unlawful for any public officer to persuade, induce or influence another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority.
Usurpation of authority, on the other hand, is committed when a person falsely represents himself as a government official or performs any act pertaining to any person in authority without being lawfully entitled to do so.
Duterte to Trillanes: ‘Good point’
In a rare instance, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte supported his staunch critic Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for saying that charging Aquino over the botched police operation would set a bad precedent.
“You cannot usurp what is inherently your duty,” he said in a press briefing before leaving for Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Trillanes earlier said that holding Aquino liable over a failed mission means that all failed military and police operations may now be blamed on the country’s chief executive.
“It will set a bad precedent kasi otherwise lahat ng palpak na mission sa AFP and PNP ay puwede mong file-an ng kaso yung commander-in-chief (because all failed AFP and PNP mission may now be used to file a case against the commander-in-chief). Hindi puwede yun (It’s not okay),” Trillanes said.
Agreeing with the senator, Duterte said Trillanes “has a good point there.”