Pres. Duterte vows to ‘uncover truth’ behind Mamasapano tragedy

Philippine Supreme Court asked to revive homicide charges against Aquino 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged to “uncover the truth” behind the botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that claimed lives of 44 police commandos three years ago.

While admitting that justice remains “elusive” for the fallen Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) members, Malacañang assured that the president will find “just closure” for their bereaved families.

“The nation remembers the heroic sacrifice of the 44 uniformed personnel of the [PNP-SAF]. Three years after the tragedy of Mamasapano, the cry for justice for our fallen SAF 44 heroes remains elusive,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

He continued, “Duterte does not wish a repeat of such a waste of lives and promising future of gallant Filipinos even as he vows to uncover the truth behind this botched operation and find a just closure for the bereaved families who lost a husband, father, brother, or son.”

The Palace official called on members of the police to look back at the sacrifices of their fallen colleagues and honor their memory by “reliving their values of integrity and courage as you perform your duty to serve and protect the nation.”

Malacañang likewise asked the Filipino people to offer prayers for the fallen heroes.

“We also pray for their bereaved families that their grief may soon be appeased through the attainment of justice,” Roque added.

Last year, Duterte declared January 25 as the Day of National Remembrance for the 44 police commandos who were killed during the botched operation in January 2015.

During the raid, dubbed as “Oplan Exodus,” SAF troopers were able to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, but were ambushed by Moro rebels.

Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, and former PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas were facing graft and usurpation charges in connection with the failed operation.

Heavier charges

Also on Thursday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the Office of the Ombudsman to file reckless imprudence resulting in homicide charges against Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas.

The OSG also asked the SC to “annul, reverse or set aside” the June 13, 2017 decision of the Ombudsman that cleared Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas from homicide charges.

“Respondents’ liability is grounded on the faulty planning and execution of Oplan Exodus. This is regardless of the presence of hostile forces in the battleground. What defines their error, therefore, is their inexcusable lack of precaution,” the OSG said.

It added, “In view of Aquino’s full knowledge of the details of Oplan Exodus and his subsequent approval thereof, he acted with inexcusable negligence which was the direct proximate cause in the massacre of SAF 44.”

Last year, the Office of the Ombudsman only filed usurpation of authority and graft charges against the three officials and dismissed the “complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide[s]” due to “lack of probable cause.”

But in a manifestation filed before the high court, the OSG insisted that there was probable cause to indict the three officials.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), a group providing legal assistance to the relatives of the SAF 44, said in a statement that the best way to honor the sacrifices of the fallen heroes is to file proper charges against those who are liable for their deaths.

“This is the best way to commemorate the sacrifice of the SAF 44. This shows that the President Rodrigo Duterte is serious in bringing justice to them and their families,”  VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez stated. n

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