With the dismissal of the cases, the Fourth Division ordered the release of the P40,000 bail bond that Aquino had posted for his provisional liberty. The court also lifted the hold departure order (HDO) it earlier issued against him.
Boy Santos/File
Sandigan junks Mamasapano raps vs Benigno Aquino III
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has granted the motion of the Office of the Ombudsman to withdraw the graft and usurpation charges filed against former president Benigno Aquino III in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano massacre.

In a six-page resolution promulgated yesterday, the court’s Fourth Division has sided with the position of Ombudsman Samuel Martires that there was no sufficient ground and evidence to charge Aquino with violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices, and usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.

“Considering that the records of the present cases are bereft of any evidence that would merit further proceedings as against accused Aquino... the Court finds that the dismissal of the said cases is indeed warranted,” the Fourth Division’s resolution read.

“Wherefore, premises considered, the subject Motion to Withdraw case Information is hereby granted. Accordingly, the criminal cases filed against Benigno Simeon Aquino III... are dismissed without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate charge/s against him,” it added.

The resolution was penned by division chairman Associate Justice Alex Quiroz with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Ronald Moreno.

With the dismissal of the cases, the Fourth Division ordered the release of the P40,000 bail bond that Aquino had posted for his provisional liberty. The court also lifted the hold departure order (HDO) it earlier issued against him. 

The cases stemmed from Aquino’s alleged act of allowing then suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to participate in the planning and implementation of Oplan Exodus, a botched police operation aimed to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.

Marwan was killed but the operation resulted in the death of over 60 people including 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force.

Martires had earlier slammed his predecessor’s filing of graft and usurpation charges against Aquino, pointing out that as the then president was the highest official of government, the latter cannot usurp the power of a subordinate nor influence or induce a subordinate to act against the law.

“He’s the President of the Philippines, he got all the power, how can he usurp the power of policemen who were his subordinates. He’s the commander-in-chief... He can anytime take over the functions of the chief PNP,” Martires told reporters last month after attending the hearing of his motion to withdraw the cases.

The graft and usurpation cases against Aquino were filed at the Sandiganbayan in November 2017 by Martires’ predecessor then ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Named as Aquino’s co-accused were Purisima and former PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr. 

The ombudsman’s motion to withdraw, however, only pertains to Aquino’s cases.

The Fourth Division deferred acting on Martires’ motion last month as the Supreme Court at the time has an existing temporary restraining order (TRO) suspending the Sandiganbayan’s proceedings of the Mamasapano cases.

The SC lifted the TRO last Aug. 7.

The TRO was issued in connection with the petition for certiorari filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) in November 2017.

The VACC’s petition is seeking the reversal of the ombudsman’s 2017 resolution dismissing the complaint of 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide that the group filed against Aquino in 2016.

The VACC had earlier accused Morales of rushing the filing of graft and usurpation cases against Aquino in order to shield him from more charges.

VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio had explained that each count of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide carries a penalty of imprisonment of four years.

Topacio said Aquino must be held liable of 44 counts of the offense for the lost lives of the 44 SAF members.

Topacio said a graft case only carries a maximum penalty of 15 years of imprisonment while penalty for usurpation of authority is convertible to just a fine.

Topacio earlier repeatedly vowed to pursue homicide charges against Aquino.

“Nothing can prevent us from re-filing a complaint. But we will first wait for the decision of the Supreme Court because as you know, we have a certiorari case saying that the former ombudsman exercised grave abuse of discretion, so out of respect and deference to the highest court, let us wait first on its ruling,” Topacio told reporters.

Topacio, however, admitted that should the SC rule against the petition for certiorari, the VACC is set to pursue another complaint at the Ombudsman.

Martires had said that he respects Morales’ decision to dismiss the homicide complaint against Aquino, “but if there’s another case that shall be filed, we will entertain it, we will investigate it.”

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