In this January 2015 photo, then President Benigno Aquino offers prayers for the slain SAF commandos at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. STAR

Aquino faces charges for role in Mamasapano clash
Elizabeth Marcelo (Philstar.com) - July 14, 2017 - 9:12am
MANILA, Philippines — Former President Benigno Aquino III will soon have his day in court for the death of over 60 people, including 44 police commandos, in the gruesome January 2015 Mamasapano incident.
 
In a 35-page consolidated resolution released Friday, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Aquino in court with usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
 
Also ordered charged as Aquino's co-accused were former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas Jr.
 
Purisima and Napeñas are already facing separate cases of graft and usurpation before the Sandiganbayan still in connection with the Mamasapano incident.
 
The resolution, approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on July 14, 2017, resolved three separate complaints filed by the families of the slain 44 SAF troopers in July and August last year, shortly after Aquino was stripped of immunity from suit following the end of his term.

'Major role'

The complainants, assisted by the Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption, originally charged Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide but the ombudsman, in its resolution, said it found “no probable cause” to sustain the filing of such case in court pointing out that the acts or negligence of the three former officials were not the “proximate cause” of the death of SAF 44.
 
The ombudsman, however, found Aquino liable of usurpation of authority for allowing Purisima to play a “major role” in Oplan Exodus, the botched PNP-SAF operation aimed to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.
 
The ombudsman said Aquino still allowed Purisima to participate in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus despite being fully aware that the latter was at that time under preventive suspension over an alleged anomalous courier service deal that the PNP entered with a private firm for the delivery of firearms licenses.
 
“There is no gainsaying that President Aquino was fully aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had placed Purisima under preventive suspension at that time,” the resolution read.
 
The ombudsman said the meetings between Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas at the Malacañang in December 2014 as well as the exchange of text messages between Aquino and Purisima on January 8 and 13 and on the actual day of the implementation of Oplan Exodus on January 25, 2015, all point to the fact that the latter took the lead in the SAF operation.
 
“The foregoing record of SMS exchanges does not jibe with President Aquino's asseveration that he merely utilized Purisima as a 'resource person providing vital information' for Oplan Exodus,” the Ombudsman said.
 
“[Purisima] indeed played an active role in Oplan Exodus as shown by all the SMS exchanges and findings of the Senate Committee Report on Mamasapano incident, to the point that he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas, and consequently, over the operation,” it added.
 
The ombudsman said Purisima could not have acted in such manner “were it not for the complicity and influence of President Aquino.”

Roxas, Espina kept in the dark

Further, the ombudsman said Aquino should be held liable for violation of Section 3 (a) of RA 3019, which prohibits public official “to persuade, induce or influence another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority.”
 
It has been earlier revealed during the Senate investigation that Purisima and Napeñas violated the PNP chain of command by keeping then acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina and then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in the dark about Oplan Exodus.
 
The operation went awry when the retreating SAF troopers were overpowered by the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and some private armed groups.
 
The encounter left 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF members and three civilians dead.

Aquino camp reacts

In a statement sent to reporters, Aquino's spokesperson Abigail Valte said the former president is set to file a motion for reconsideration on the ombudsman's resolution
 
"Former President Benigno Aquino III received the order of the Ombudsman this afternoon and is currently studying it with his lawyers, with the end view of filing a motion for reconsideration,” Valte, the former deputy presidential spokesperson, said.
 
“An initial reading shows that there may have been a misappreciation of some facts surrounding the incident, leading to some erroneous conclusions. He will seek to clarify the same through a motion for reconsideration,” she added.

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