By Czarina Nicole Ong
Bad news for former President Benigno S. Aquino III.
The Office of the Ombudsman has denied his motion to drop the graft and usurpation charges filed against him in connection with the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in Brgy. Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
In a consolidated order signed on September 11, 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied Aquino’s motion for reconsideration (MR) and ruled that the Consolidated Resolution dated June 13, 2017 charging him along with former Police Director Chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas stands.
Morales, an appointee of Aquino found probable cause to indict the former President for utilizing the services of a suspended police chief in carrying out Oplan Exodus. Morales said conferring with Purisima required acts of persuasion and influence, which therefore caused Purisima to violate his suspension.
“While a President of the Republic is certainly possessed with broad discretionary powers, the exercise thereof must not, however, be done in violation of a law or laws, much less when such exercise constitutes a crime,” the Ombudsman said.
“A government of laws, not of men, excludes the exercise of broad discretionary powers by those acting under its authority.”
Aquino argued that the graft and usurpation charges against him must be dismissed since the deaths of the 44 SAF troopers in Mamasapano were caused by “the intentional act of shooting by hostile forces – and not my actions.”
He pinned all the blame on Napeñas and tried to absolve Purisima. He claimed that Purisima was only acting as a resource person then, and did not violate the Ombudsman’s suspension.
“It cannot be gainsaid that the capture and arrest of Marwan and Abdulbasit Usman had been the priority of the government even before my term as the president,” Aquino said, adding that his only intent then was to utilize the expertise of Purisima.
The former President added it was clear it was Napeñas who undertook the principal planning and preparation of Oplan Exodus, while he was the officer-in-charge of the execution of the operation.
“My act of asking Purisima questions cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be construed as asking or ordering Purisima to direct the implementation of Oplan Exodus – as it was very clear then that it was Napeñas who was not only in charge…but was also the ground commander at the time of implementation,” he noted.
But the Ombudsman said Aquino’s argument that Purisima was only a resource person in the whole operation does not “lie vis a vis the evidence,” which included the text messages they sent to one another.
And despite Aquino’s insistence that Purisima acted as a private citizen, the Ombudsman did not agree. The Ombudsman said he “would definitely not have been able to do all the acts that he did in relation to a classified and sensitive operation such as Oplan Exodus.”
The Ombudsman said probable cause against Aquino exists simply for assenting to and not preventing Purisima from violating his preventive suspension, which was set in place for six months due to the anomalous courier deal between the PNP and Werfast Documentation Agency, Inc. in 2011.