DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 July) – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of criminal charges against former president Benigno Aquino III along with two former officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for their involvement in the Mamasapano tragedy over two years ago.
In a resolution Friday, Morales ordered Aquino, former PNP director general Alan Purisima and former Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas charged for violation of Article 177, or Usurpation of Authority, of the Revised Penal Code and Section 3a of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
It said the charges is based on the following grounds: participation and assistance in the planning of Oplan Exodus with gross and inexcusable negligence; approving the operation with full knowledge that it was flawed; allowing Purisima, then suspended as PNP chief, not only to participate in the planning, but also to run the operation and providing the latter information and intelligence, thereby giving pseudo-legal power to a suspended official; and breach in the established norms inherent in a chain of command.
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.”
The Ombudsman said that based on 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. “
The law also provides that “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. “
Morales said 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).”
The Ombudsman added that “SMS exchanges between President Aquino and Purisima showed that the suspended police chief played a major role in the botched operation.”
On January 24, 2015, over 300 members of the elite SAF “unilaterally launched Oplan Exodus” to serve standing warrants of arrest against suspected terrorists Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and his aide Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 SAF members, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants and five civilians dead.
“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,” the resolution read.
Morales added that “certainly a public officer who is under preventive suspension is 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.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)