Former President Benigno Aquino 3rd maintained that he had no participation in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus, the anti-terrorist operation carried out in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 police commandos dead.
Aquino, in his counter-affidavit submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, attributed the loss of lives to “poor planning, defective execution and lack of coordination” between the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
He asked the Ombudsman to dismiss the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide filed against him for lack of merit.
Also charged were former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas.
Aquino said that he “had no direct participation in the planning, approval and execution of Oplan Exodus.”
He said the operation, intended to arrest terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman, “did not need any direct approval from the President of the Philippines…nor was it sought.”
He said that he only knew about Oplan Exodus on January 9, 2015 during a briefing requested by Napeñas through Purisima.
“The plan was presented to me merely for my information that a law enforcement operation was being scheduled to be conducted.”
“I gave a specific and direct order to respondent Napeñas to coordinate with the AFP in the implementation of ‘Oplan Exodus,’” he said.
“I specifically ordered respondent Napeñas, in plain and simple terms, that the AFP should be given sufficient time to likewise prepare for the operation to ensure the operation’s success, and to guarantee that the PNP-SAF will not sustain casualties and damage. As far as I was concerned and because of respondent Napeñas’ categorical ‘Yes sir’, I took that to mean that he understood and would strictly obey my direct and lawful order,” Aquino added.
Purisima was present at the briefing because of his “familiarity and intimate knowledge of Marwan,” he said.
“It was likewise clear to me and to those present during the briefing that it was respondent Napeñas who was the one in command and has operational control over Oplan Exodus. Notably, during the meeting, it was respondent Napeñas who answered my questions and comments by referring to the relevant and appropriate slides in his presentation. It was precisely because of this fact that I addressed my directive to coordinate with the AFP to respondent Napeñas and not to respondent Purisima,” Aquino said.
“As Chief Executive, I have full authority and prerogative to secure all valuable information necessary for a successful operation to serve the warrants of arrest. To be sure, there is nothing illegal or criminal about securing his intimate knowledge and expertise about the past and on-going operations and Oplans that had previously been undertaken to arrest high value targets during his term,” he added.
Aquino argued that there is no factual or legal ground to hold him liable for the tragedy.