Finally, a glimmer of justice for the kin of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who were slain in January 2015 following a botched counter-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales seems to have come to her senses and on Friday ordered the indictment of former president Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, former PNP chief Alan Purisima, and former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas for graft and usurpation of authority.
Aquino will stand accused, along with Purisima and Napeñas, of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Revised Penal Code. This was because of the highly irregular, and, according to the Ombudsman, criminal manner in which Aquino authorized the Mamasapano raid that led to the deaths of 60 people including the 44 SAF men in a “misencounter” with terrorists and Moro insurgents.
Aquino allowed Purisima, one of his closest aides, to direct the SAF operation despite the fact that the latter was placed under preventive suspension by the same Ombudsman for an anomalous courier deal. Aquino thus induced Purisima to commit an illegal act, and the suspended Purisima willingly exercised authority that was not his. Napeñas agreed to this setup. Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas were in fact criminal conspirators, and for this they face prison time.
Aquino reacted to the Ombudsman’s decision by sticking to his “alternative truth” narrative and accusing the Ombudsman of “misappreciation of facts.” In Aquino’s alternative universe, Purisima was merely a “resource person” in the operation dubbed “Oplan Exodus,” and only Napeñas was to blame.
But text messages between Aquino and Purisima and Purisima and Napeñas, quoted at length in the Ombudsman’s 35-page resolution, expose this “alternative truth” as a bald-faced lie.
“The fact remains that, at the time, particularly before and during the actual implementation of Oplan Exodus, Purisima was under preventive suspension, and that Purisima, despite being under preventive suspension, indeed played an active role in Oplan Exodus, as shown by all the record of SMS (short messaging service) exchanges and findings in the Senate Committee Report on the Mamasapano incident, to the point that he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas and, consequently, over the operation,” the Ombudsman said.
Here’s the unadorned fact for Aquino to digest: if he, Purisima and Napeñas did not hide this irregular operation from the regular chain of command, 44 police commandos would not have been sent to slaughter. Never mind the supposed motivation for the entire operation – the $5-million bounty by the US government on Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, the subject of the botched Mamasapano raid.
The Ombudsman is to be commended for recommending Aquino’s indictment and setting aside whatever debt of gratitude she owed the ex-president for appointing her to the post after her retirement from the Supreme Court. Let Aquino stand trial for the Mamasapano carnage and may justice be served on the SAF 44 and their families.