This paper was among the first to commend Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales last year for finally acting on the complaints of the families of the members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) killed in the infamous Mamasapano carnage in January 2015.
Morales 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, a ruling that was finalized this month and brought to trial before the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
Since then, however, a number of legal minds and analysts have found Morales’ decision to be deficient, as she could have filed weightier cases against Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas.
We’re referring to the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide that Morales had dropped, over which there has been a lot of misunderstanding.
Indeed, how could Aquino et al. be charged with homicide, when they were not at the scene and therefore not holding the trigger of the guns that killed the SAF commandos?
The complaint, it should be pointed out, pertains to reckless imprudence, not homicide. Yes, it is bailable, but Aquino et al., if proven guilty, face more than a lifetime in jail.
With graft carrying a prison term of 15 years at most, Morales’ indictment of Aquino et al. seems to be a mere slap on the wrist. And such is a terrible injustice considering that 44 lives were unnecessarily lost.
The Ombudsman’s office itself admits to the highly irregular and 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.
The fact is that Aquino allowed Purisima, one of his closest aides, to direct the SAF operation even if the latter had been placed under preventive suspension by the Ombudsman for an anomalous courier deal.
Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas wantonly violated the chain of command. Aquino induced Purisima to exercise authority that was not his, and Napeñas went along.
This is indeed a conspiracy to commit graft and usurpation of authority, but also reckless imprudence that led to the senseless deaths of scores of uniformed men.
We cannot agree to the argument of some people who want to exonerate Aquino et al. and just charge the incident to poor executive judgment. The loss of 44 lives is not something to be swept under the rug and dismissed.
As we had written last year, if Aquino, 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.
A petition for certiorari or review of the Ombudsman’s Mamasapano ruling was filed before the Supreme Court last week.
The high tribunal must consider the petition posthaste to ensure, at the very least, that all avenues have been exhausted to ensure justice for the SAF-44 and their kin.