FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd should be slapped with a graver complaint in connection with his actions in the January 2015 Mamasapano incident that claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, members of the Senate majority bloc said Sunday.
Senator Richard Gordon, who heads the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said Aquino should have been charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide because he was in charge of the police operations aimed to capture Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.
“If you were to ask me, without going to the Ombudsman I would have filed graver charges. It is clearly multiple homicide to reckless imprudence,” Gordon said in a radio interview.
The senator said Aquino, as the commander in chief, was clearly the one in charge.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito shared Gordon’s view, saying there is a need to have closure and give justice to the death of the SAF commandos. Pursuing a graver charge against the former president could help ease the pain of the families and relatives of the victims, he said.
“I am not singling out the former president, but as commander in chief there is a thing called command responsibility,” Ejercito said.
He cited the “Iran-contra” scandal that happened during the time former United States president Ronald Reagan in 1985 involving the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran by senior officials of the administration.
Although Reagan was not aware of the operation because it was kept secret from him, he had to deal with the controversy as commander in chief because of command responsibility.
Gordon said he was not satisfied with the recommendation of the Office of the Ombudsman to file graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima former SAF director Getulio Napeñas.
The senator said the Ombudsman “watered down” the sins of Aquino. He said the SAF commandos who carried out the operation were abandoned by the commander in chief.
Gordon also said he will definitely reopen the Senate committee investigation into the Mamasapano incident and will invite Aquino to the proceedings.
“Yes I will invite him (Aquino), nobody will be exempted,” the senator said.
Families and relatives of the SAF 44 on February sought the help of Gordon for the possible reopening of the Senate iquiry.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs then headed by Sen. Grace Poe in its report released in 2015 concluded that Aquino was ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission.
Poe, on the motion of them Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, reopened the hearing on January 2016 but concluded that there was no new information that was discussed in the hearing that could initiate changes in the committee report.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon however opposed another investigation of the tragedy, saying there was no need for it.
Rep. Romeo Acop of Antipolo City on Sunday said government prosecutors will have a hard time proving that Aquino usurped his authority.
“Let’s look at the usurpation aspect. The president is the head of all the agencies of government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces as far as the Constitution is concerned. Given that situation, I would say prosecuting him for usurpation of authority would be tough to pull through,” Acop, a former police officer, said in a radio interview.
“Usurpation may not be the exact word for it,” he added.
Acop, however, was unforgiving of Purisima.
“General Purisima was suspended and therefore, [he]should have ceased from conducting or performing the activities that he was supposed to do as the PNP Chief. That is the essence of the suspension. Purisima should really be charged,” he pointed out.
Acop said Aquino erred in entrusting the police operation to Purisima.
“He already knew that he (Purisima) was suspended and yet he was dealing with General Purisima as a friend and as PNP Chief. As a result, General Napeñas and General Purisima are both reporting to then President Aquino, and Napeñas could have had the impression that Purisima had the controlling command, instead of General [Leonardo] Espina,” Acop said.
He added that the filing of charges against Aquino would not necessarily put closure to the Mamasapano carnage.
“I don’t think the filing of cases will tell all the truth about the operations against Marwan and [another terrorist]Basit Usman. There’s still a lot of truth that needs to be told by General Purisima and Napeñas,” Acop said.
AND LLANESCA PANTI