PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s top legal adviser on Saturday said the “time of reckoning” had come after former president Benigno Aquino 3rd was indicted for graft and usurpation of authority over his alleged hand in the botched 2015 Mamasapano operation.
“Sooner or later the law will catch up on those who use power or wealth to shield themselves from the majesty of the law,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“There is a time for reckoning and the time has finally come for the former President. Dura lex sed lex, no power nor wealth can escape from it, it can only delay its coming, but when it does, it operates ex propio vigore (with full force and effect),” he added.
On Friday, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of criminal charges against Aquino for his liability in the Mamasapano massacre that cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members.
In her resolution, Ombudsman Morales ordered the filing of charges against Aquino for usurpation of authority (Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code) and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
Also ordered charged as Aquino’s co-accused were former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr.
Purisima and Napeñas are already facing separate cases of graft and usurpation before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the Mamasapano incident.
On January 24, 2015, about 400 members of the elite police force launched “Oplan Exodus” to serve standing warrants against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Ahmad Ukmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The SAF operation, however, resulted in a firefight that lasted for several hours, killing 44 police commandos.
On January 24 or a year after the botched Mamasapano operation, Duterte said there was a violation committed when the past administration sent the elite police force in an operation against high-value targets. He declared January 25 of every year the “Day of National Remembrance” for the SAF 44.
The President said his predecessor, Aquino, fed the SAF troopers “to the lion’s den to be eaten by death.” He also pledged the families of slain SAF troopers that his administration would serve the justice they deserved.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Ombudsman’s order was in line with the President’s hope to “put closure to the issue.”
“The President recognizes the heroic sacrifice of the PNP-SAF 44. And it is his – and the nation’s – hope to finally bring justice to the victims and families of the Fallen 44 and put closure to the issue as part of the healing process,” Abella said.
Reacting to the Ombudsman ruling, Sen. Grace Poe also said the charges would put “closure” on Aquino’s liability over the bloody raid.
Poe was the head of the Senate panel that investigated the deaths of the SAF 44, which found Aquino to be “ultimately liable” for the bloodbath.
She noted that during his term, “[Aquino] was not given the chance to explain himself before the Senate.”
“Now that there is already a case like this, he’ll now have the opportunity to defend himself,” Poe said in an interview in Iloilo City where she spoke before the members of the Philippine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“We’ll now see that this will serve as an opportunity to have a closure to the Mamasapano [tragedy]. Until now, the affected [families of the]victims still don’t know who were charged in court,” she said.
with BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO