Ombudsman upholds Aquino indictment over Mamasapano tragedy

The Office of the Ombudsman has affirmed the graft and usurpation of authority indictment of former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in connection with the botched Mamasapano operation that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos two years ago.

In a resolution approved Monday, September 11, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales rejected Aquino’s motion for partial reconsideration which cites his indictment a “misappreciation of facts and specious application of the law.”

“While a President of the Republic is certainly possessed with broad discretionary powers, the exercise thereof must not, however, be done in violation of a law or laws, much less when such constitutes a crime,” the resolution read.

Aquino was indicted of violating the Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act  (RA) No. 3019, and of usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code over his alleged role in the tragic operation dubbed as “Oplan Exodus” on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Mindanao, where 44 Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in an ambush.

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.

In his appeal, Aquino lamented that he was not given the opportunity “to adequately address and refute the charges… prior to the issuance of the Assailed Resolution.”

He further noted that the Assailed Resolution was “not only premised on highly inaccurate and flawed facts, but the legal conclusions drawn from these facts were patently erroneous and bereft of any merit.”

The Ombudsman, however, asserted that the former president was “accorded the opportunity to be heard during the conduct of (the) preliminary investigation.”

The indictment against Aquino’s co-accused—former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-SAF head Getulio Napeñas—was also sustained.

“President Aquino himself has repeatedly admitted and asserted in his counter-affidavit and in the instant motion that he utilized the services of Purisima for Oplan Exodus, albeit he is insisting that it was only for a limited role of a resource person,” the Ombudsman said.

“To this Office, however, the evidence on record regarding the extent of Purisima’s actual participation in Oplan Exodus… shows that he was certainly much more than being a resource person,” the Ombudsman added.

Oplan Exodus sought to neutralize terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, more known as Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman  in the southern Philippines where various separatist rebel groups are based.

SAF troopers successfully killed Marwan during the raid but were ambushed by insurgent groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)—leading to the death of 44 elite soldiers.

But the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino, which were filed by SAF 44 families’ lawyers from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), were junked again due to  “lack of probable cause.”

Morales previously said that Aquino’s negligence cannot be treated as the proximate cause of the deaths of the troopers. The proximate cause, she noted, was the “intentional act of shooting by hostile forces that included members of the MILF, BIFF,and PAGs (Private Armed Groups).”

“In addition to the absence of probable cause, counsel’s theory that 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide lie against respondents is clearly bereft of merit,” the resolution said.

Following the Ombudsman’s decision, Aquino’s spokesperson Abi Valte said the former president will meet with his legal team “to determine his next course of action regarding this case.”

VACC chairman Dante Jimenez, meanwhile, lamented the Ombudsman’s “unfair” resolution on the Mamasapano case.

“Talagang halatang-halata na hindi nila isinama ang homicide sa kaso (It’s so obvious that the homicide charge was not included in the case),” Jimenez said in a statement.

“It’s so unfair, I will ask now the family, they want the Ombudsman to be removed, so we are looking at that option. We will ask the SAFF 44 if they want to join,” he added.

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