The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday filed at the Sandiganbayan charges of graft and usurpation of official functions against former President Benigno Aquino 3rd in connection with the botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.
Aquino was accused of violating Section 3(a) of RA 3019 (The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) for persuading suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to violate the PNP chain of command. The Ombudsman said the former president “utiliz[ed]the services of Purisima for Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation” despite the latter’s suspension over an allegedly anomalous courier deal.
Oplan Exodus was the operation launched by the PNP to capture top terrorists Marwan and Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed but Usman escaped.
The operation left 44 members of the Special Action Force dead.
The Ombudsman also accused Aquino of usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal
The same charges were filed against Purisima and Napeñas early this year before the Sandiganbayan.
In February 2015, the Ombudsman initiated a fact-finding probe to determine the identities of those who were responsible in the planning and conduct of the police operation.
Last year, three separate complaints were filed accusing Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in July dismissed for lack of probable cause the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide. However, the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Aquino with graft and usurpation of official functions.
Aquino sought the dismissal of the charges, claiming that Purisima’s involvement was limited to being a resource person. The Ombudsman threw out his motion for reconsideration.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) denounced the move of the Office of the Ombudsman to rush the filing of charges against Aquino.
Dante Jimenez, chairman of the VACC, expressed belief that the filing of graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino was part of the Ombudsman’s effort to preempt the Supreme Court from ruling on the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the VACC and the families of 44 Special Action Force commandos killed in the Mamasapano massacre.
Named respondents in the petition were Morales, Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas.
“VACC denounces the filing by Ombudsman Morales of the usurpation and graft complaint against Aquino et al,” Jimenez said in a statement.
He insisted that the complaint should be 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.
Members of the Liberal Party on Wednesday said that the filing of criminal charges against Aquino was expected.
According to Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, the Ombudsman already had a resolution finding basis for filing the information.
“So that is part of the process. So that is expected. It would be a surprise if the Ombudsman did not file it because it will not be consistent with the procedure,” Drilon said in a statement.
with JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA