MANILA – Former President Benigno Aquino III has been ordered to stand trial for his liability in the 2015 Mamasapano massacre that left 44 members of the police special forces dead, according to an order by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
In a Resolution approved Friday, Ombudsman Morales ordered the filing of charges against Aquino for Usurpation of Authority (Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code) and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
Standing as his co-conspirators are former Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima and Director Getulio Napeñas of the Special Action Force (SAF).
The botched operation, kept from the then acting PNP chief and Interior secretary by the trio of Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas, became a national tragedy with the death of the 44 elite SAF men sent to apprehend a Malaysian terrorist in Maguindanao.
Just before midnight of January 25, 2015, almost 400 highly-trained commandos belonging to the elite SAF, unilaterally launched Oplan Exodus to serve standing warrants of arrest against internationally-wanted terrorists, Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Ahmad Akmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. In the ensuing firefight that lasted for several hours, 44 SAF troopers died in the line of duty.
According to the complainants, the criminal negligence of Aquino is based on several acts:
(1) participation and assistance in the planning of Oplan Exodus with gross and inexcusable negligence;
(2) approving the operation with full knowledge that it was flawed;
(3) for allowing suspended PNP Chief Purisima not only to participate in the planning, but also in the running of said operation and proving information and intelligence, thereby giving pseudo-legal power to a suspended official; and
(4) breach in the established norms inherent in a chain of command.
In the investigation, Ombudsman Morales stated that “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 [for the anomalous Werfest deal].” Despite this, SMS exchanges between President Aquino and Purisima showed that the suspended police chief played a major role in the botched operation.
“The fact remains that, at the time, particularly before and during the actual implementation of Oplan Exodus, Purisima was under preventive suspension, and that Purisima, despite being under preventive suspension, indeed played an active role in Oplan Exodus, as shown by all the record of SMS exchanges and findings in the Senate Committee Report on the Mamasapano incident, to the point that he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas and consequently, over the operation,” reads the Consolidated Resolution.
Ombudsman Morales commented that “certainly a public officer who is under preventive suspension in barred from performing any public functions and from meddling into the affairs of the government. In other words, Purisima would not have been placed in such a position of continuing to conduct himself, in relation to Oplan Exodus, in a manner as if he was not under preventive suspension at that time, from his position as PNP chief, were it not for the complicity and influence of President Aquino.”
For the offense under Section 3(a) of R.A. No. 3019, all the foregoing circumstances establish probable cause that, with the complicity and influence of President Aquino, the order of preventive suspension issued by the Ombudsman was violated.
Under Section 3(a) of R.A. No. 3019, it shall be 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 or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation or offense. Meantime, under Article 177, Usurpation of Authority is committed by any person who shall knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government, or who, under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine Government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do so.