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DOJ eyes Purisima, Napeñas liabilities in Mamasapano clash

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed that the DOJ’s special probe team would look not only into the criminal liabilities in the “overkill” of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force troopers during the clash, but also the possible liabilities of resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and former SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has expanded its investigation on the deadly clash of police commandos and Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed yesterday that the DOJ’s special probe team would look not only into the criminal liabilities in the “overkill” of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force troopers during the clash, but also the possible liabilities of resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and former SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas Jr.

“That is part of our ongoing evaluation,” she said in a text message, referring to the liabilities of Purisima and Napeñas.

De Lima bared this after receiving a copy of the PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) report, which she said would be useful to the DOJ’s probe team.

The DOJ shares with the Office of the Ombudsman the investigative power on graft and other charges against government officials.

The DOJ probe initially targeted possible cases on the killing of SAF commandos as well as 18 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.

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De Lima earlier hinted that possible charges of multiple murder, homicide and other offenses could be filed against MILF members who figured in the clash with the SAF operatives tapped to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano.

She said other possible cases include serious physical injuries, direct assault, illegal possession of firearms, violation of Republic Act 9851 or crimes under International Humanitarian Law and obstruction of justice.

De Lima questions BOI conclusion

But De Lima contested the conclusion of the BOI on the liability of President Aquino, particularly his supposed violation of the PNP’s chain of command.

“Comprehensive as the BOI Mamasapano Report wishes to be, it starts on the wrong premise insofar as the role of the President as commander-in-chief of the PNP is concerned,” De Lima said of the 130-page report.

The BOI report, which was made public on Friday, pointed out that Aquino’s meeting with Purisima and Napeñas was against protocol.

The BOI said “the act of dealing with Napeñas instead of OIC-PNP (Deputy Director General Leonardo) Espina bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command.”

But the DOJ chief pointed out that Aquino cannot be considered the commander-in-chief of the PNP, which is civilian in nature.

“In relation to the PNP, the President is the Chief Executive, in the same way that he acts as the Chief Executive to all the civilian agencies of the executive bureaucracy,” she explained.

De Lima also pointed out that the error, which she labeled an “unconstitutional and even illegal operating premise of the PNP,” cannot bind Aquino.

“Based on a wrong premise, the BOI report on the nature of the President’s role can only arrive at a wrong conclusion,” she said.

“The PNP BOI cannot assume to impose upon the President his role and corresponding accountabilities as Commander-in-Chief of the PNP, without itself understanding the very nature of the PNP as a civilian agency that should relate to the President as its Chief Executive,” she added.

‘Hold MILF responsible, probe US role’

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, however, said the MILF should be held responsible before pinning the blame on Aquino and other PNP and AFP officials.

“The MILF is the primary responsible here. Before we cast blame on the President and any of our government troops, whether the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the PNP, the question is who killed (the 44 SAF troopers)? Who coddled Marwan?” Recto said in a radio interview.

Recto also said that while the report on the Mamasapano carnage was substantial, it was lacking details on how the President and his top security officials reacted upon knowing that the SAF were caught in heavy fire as early as 5:30 a.m. of Jan. 25.

The senator also noticed that the BOI report did not give details on the role of the United States in the execution of Oplan Exodus, instead asserting that the US counterparts’ participation was limited to intelligence build-up and medical evacuation.

Recto wants the executive branch to explain to the Senate up to what extent the US government can assist the country in military operations after the BOI established that US forces helped in Oplan Exodus. – With Christina Mendez

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