FORMER president Benigno Aquino 3rd posted a P40,000 bail after the Sandiganbayan Third Division found basis to try him for the cases of graft and usurpation of official functions in connection with the botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a court official said on Friday.
Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma told reporters on Friday afternoon that a resolution dated November 10 finding probable cause was issued by the anti-graft court.
Pulma said an arrest warrant was signed but was not released for service considering that Aquino posted bail for his provisional liberty.
He said that court set the arraignment and pretrial on January 12.
The court also issued a hold departure order (HDO) dated November 10, according to Pulma.
An HDO bars a defendant from leaving the country without the court’s prior permission.
Aquino reiterated that he should not be charged with anything, saying that he did whatever was necessary to minimize the casualties in Mamasapano where 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos died in an encounter with Islamist extremists on January 15, 2015.
In a news conference at his home on Times Street in Quezon City yesterday, the former president also said that in posting bail, he was merely exercising his rights based on the Constitution and that he did not see himself on the losing side.
The cases were raffled off to the court’s Third Division on Friday morning.
Aquino was accompanied by sisters Viel Aquino-Dee, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, and Ballsy Aquino-Cruz; former Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda; Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th; former Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., and former Transportation secretary Emilio Abaya.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the cases on Wednesday.
In accusing Aquino of graft, the Ombudsman alleged in the charge sheet that he “persuade[d], induce[d]or influence[d]Alan La Madrid Purisima, then the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)…to violate the” PNP chain of command, the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order, and then-OIC PNP Chief Leonardo Espina’s order for Purisima and other then-suspended police officers to stop performing their respective offices’s duties and functions.
The Ombudsman preventively suspended Purisima for six months in December 2014 pending investigation into the allegedly anomalous courier deal forged by the PNP with Werfast Documentation Agency, Inc. in 2011. The PNP terminated the deal in March 2014.
Aquino allegedly “utiliz[ed]the services of Purisima for Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation” and allegedly gave “instructions to, receiv[ed]reports and recommendations from and approv[ed]the actions of Getulio Pascua Napeñas, then Director of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF), thru Purisima relative to the preparation, conduct and implementation of Oplan Exodus,” according to the charge sheet.
In another charge sheet, the Ombudsman accused Aquino of usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
It alleged that he, “in conspiracy with” Purisima and Napeñas, “cause[d]Purisima to perform and/or exercise the function of the Chief of the PNP over Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation…despite accused Aquino III having knowledge that Purisima was under preventive suspension…”
Aquino said on Friday that he specifically asked Purisima and Napeñas to look out for loopholes in their operation and repeatedly reminded them of the risks of their plan.
Aquino said that he gave the green light because he trusted the people involved and that he was assured by Napenas that the operation would be a success.
Aquino added that until now, he did not know of any reason as to why Napenas “tricked” him into thinking that the operation was good to go.
“From the time it happened up to today, anong pumasok sa isip nito na susugal na ganyan katindi (what compelled him to take the risk)? What drove him to embark on this? I do not have that answer. Maraming (There are a lot of) speculations, I don’t know. I never got to talk to him,” Aquino said.
The operation, known as Oplan Exodus, was aimed at the capture of Marwan and his protégé Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped.
Over 60 people, including 44 PNP-SAF members were killed in the gun battle that ensued.
Usman was later killed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a chance encounter.
with RALPH VILLANUEVA