By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) released early last night a restraining order that stopped the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the arraignment on graft and usurpation of authority filed against former President Benigno S. Aquino III in connection with the Mamasapano massacre that resulted in the death of 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The order granted the plea of Solicitor General Jose Calida to stop the Sandiganbayan proceedings pending review of the petition that sought the inclusion of former President Aquino and two others as respondents in the reckless imprudence complaints that had been dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Aside from the former President, stopped by the SC were the arraignments of former PNP Chief Alan Purisima and former SAF chief Getulio Napenas. They were charged with graft and usurpation of authority before the Sandiganbayan which had set their arraignment on February 15.
In its resolution containing a temporary restraining order (TRO), the SC enjoined the Office of the Ombudsman from implementing its resolutions “insofar as it dismissed the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against respondents Benigno Simeon C. Aguino III, Alan Purisima and Getulio Napeñas and from further proceeding in the subject cases.”
The SC also directed the Sandiganbayan “from proceeding with the arraignment of private respondents in these cases.”
The resolution was dated Feb. 7, 2018.
Last month, Calida asked the SC to compel the Office of the Ombudsman to file 44 counts of homicide against former President Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas in connection with 2015 encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where 44 policemen were killed in a clash with rebels.
In a manifestation, Calida also asked the SC to nullify the Ombudsman’s ruling that dismissed the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide filed against Aquino, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, and former PNP Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas Jr.
In filing the manifestation, Calida – for the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) – joined the petition filed with the SC by the relatives of two policemen killed in the encounter.
With the manifestation, Calida asked the SC to stop the scheduled arraignment of Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas before the Sandiganbayan on February 15 on Usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“The act of public respondent Ombudsman in the case of dismissing the case for reckless imprudence, however, is a wanton disregard of the sufficiency of evidence to form a belief that a crime for Reckless Imprudence has been committed,” Calida said.
Still pending with the SC is the request for change of venue from Cotabato to Metro Manila of the trial of the cases filed in connection with the Mamasapano killings.
The request for the transfer of venue was contained in a letter sent by prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno.
DOJ records showed that 67 persons – 44 policemen, 18 rebels, and five civilians – died in Mamasapano. The policemen encountered the rebels while they were retreating from an operation to neutralize two groups of terrorists.
The same records showed that a complex crime of direct assault with murder has been filed against 88 accused most of whom belonged to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The cases are lodged with the Cotabato City regional trial court (RTC.