The relatives of some of the 44 police commandos who died in a gun battle after a botched counter-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015 asked the Office of the Ombudsman to reconsider its ruling, which dismissed the complaint of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against former president Benigno Aquino 3rd and two former police officials.
The Ombudsman last week found basis to charge Aquino, “in conspiracy” with former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and former PNP Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas Jr., with graft and usurpation of authority before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
In a motion for reconsideration filed on Wednesday, the complainants urged the Ombudsman to reexamine and reconsider its resolution and to file 44 counts of “Reckless Imprudence Resulting [in]Homicide and Usurpation of Authority” against Aquino.
The complainants — assisted by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) — alleged that “[t]he negligence of former president Aquino is the proximate cause of the deaths of SAF 44.”
They said it was “bizarre” for the Ombudsman to conclude that the proximate cause of the SAF 44’s death was the “intentional act” of shooting by hostile forces including members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs).
“In this case, the question that begs to be answered is: Who put the SAF 44 in the line of fire that made them easy targets for the guns of the hostile forces? Definitely not the MILF, the BIFF and the PAGs. The SAF44 were there due to the defective orders of a defective President. He is thus the proximate cause,” the complainants said.
They argued that the “proximate cause” may be the first act that caused a chain of events resulting in the injury.
“In this case, the first act that set off the chain of events leading to the deaths of SAF 44 was the reckless imprudence and negligence of Respondent Aquino in at least three areas,” they said.
They were referring to, among others, Purisima’s being allowed to oversee the police operation, dubbed “Oplan Exodus,” despite his preventive suspension at the time.
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.
In its resolution last week, the Ombudsman said Purisima “played an active role in Oplan Exodus” despite being under preventive suspension “to the point that he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas and, consequently, over the operation.”
“Purisima would not have been placed in such a position of continuing to conduct himself, in relation to Oplan Exodus, in a manner as if he was not under preventive suspension at that time, from his position as [then-]PNP chief, were it not for the complicity and influence of [then-]President Aquino,” it said.
Aquino has also filed his motion for reconsideration, according to a source.
Oplan Exodus’ mission was the capture of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his protégé Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped.
Over 60 people, including 44 SAF members, were killed in the gun battle that ensued. Usman was killed a few months later by Moro rebels.
Telly Submilla, one of the complainants, said, “Parang consuelo de bobo lang ang ginawa ni [Ombudsman Conchita] Carpio Morales…’di patas ang hustisya dito. Bakit, dahil ba sila makapangyarihan, kami mahirap lamang? (“What Carpio Morales did seems to be a mock consolation…justice here is not fair. Why, is it because they are powerful, and we are only poor?”)
Another complainant, Felicitas Nacino, lamented, “Masakit na masakit po ang nangyari po sa mga anak namin.
Hindi po makatarungan ang kanilang pagkamatay…Ombudsman, maging patas ka po, ipakita mo ang tamang hustisya para sa mga anak po namin. Huwag po sana kayong selective…makinig po naman po kayo sa mga hinaing namin.” (“What happened to our sons is very painful. Their deaths were unjust…Ombudsman, please be fair, show the right justice for our sons. Please do not be selective…please listen to our pleas.”)