The war of words between anti-corruption watchdogs is not yet over.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) maintained on Saturday its commitment to impeach Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales despite the indictment of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd on graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos during the botched Mamasapano counter-terror operation in 2015.
During a forum in Quezon City, VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez said his group felt the Ombudsman only downgraded the charges against Aquino, and that its dismissed complaint of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide would have been a stronger case against the former president.
“This is an orchestrated design to eventually whitewash and scrap the case against former president Aquino.
That is how we, our lawyers in the VACC, see this as well as the feelings of the [families of the]victims,” Jimenez told reporters.
The anti-crime watchdog filed the reckless imprudence case against Aquino, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and retired SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr. before the Office of the Ombudsman in July 2016.
The VACC’s legal team, headed by Ferdinand Topacio, stands as the lawyer of the 44 SAF troopers killed in action during the Mamasapano bloodbath.
Morales filed charges of graft and usurpation of official functions against Purisima and Napeñas before the
Sandiganbayan in January, but excluded Aquino from the names of respondents.
On Friday, a turn of events occurred as the Ombudsman ordered the filing of charges against Aquino, pointing out that he knowingly allowed Purisima to direct the Mamasapano operation despite the latter’s preventive suspension over an anomalous courier deal.
Purisima was suspended in December 2014, a month before Oplan Exodus was conducted in Mamasapano, Maguindanao to go after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who was also killed during the botched operation.
But Jimenez’s group branded the Ombudsman’s decision as another show of “selective justice.”
“Ombudsman Morales has shown another sense of selective justice that’s why we dare, she either resign or we will proceed with the impeachment complaint that our lawyers have been preparing for a long time,” Jimenez said.
He claimed the impeachment complaint against Morales had “gained enough support” from several lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
In January this year, the VACC announced that it would file an impeachment complaint against Morales for her “failure” to hold Aquino accountable for Oplan Exodus.
The VACC claimed to have obtained the support of 20 members of the House, only that the lawmakers were afraid the Ombudsman might get back at them.
For Jimenez, the Ombudsman’s order to file graft and usurpation of powers against Aquino would be “enough” to persuade other members of Congress to push for her ouster.
“I believe that this heinous decision of this Ombudsman Morales can help us in [rousing]the consciences of our lawmakers, mostly coming from the House of Representatives because, come on, we cannot bring back the 44 lives [lost],” he said.
Jimenez said his group, along with the SAF 44’s kin, would file a motion for reconsideration before the Office of the Ombudsman by Wednesday to ask for the reversal of the decision to drop the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.
‘Political patron and boss’
If the Ombudsman sits on the VACC’s motion, the group will bring the case to the “final bastion” of the justice system in the Philippines, the Supreme Court, Topacio said.
“We are doing our best because we owe the families of the victims but our situation is just hard because we have an Ombudsman who is protecting her political patron and boss [which is Aquino],” he said.
“We have to work within the [justice]system but we have the Supreme Court, which is the final bastion of justice in this country. If Ombudsman Morales will stand with her opinion that there is no homicide case, we will raise this before the Supreme Court,” he added.
Topacio also slammed Morales as regards the usurpation of authority charge, noting that Aquino had the highest position at that time “and no one can usurp his powers since he was the president of the Republic.”
“So it is very clear, the Ombudsman does not want a homicide [case against Aquino]…it’s like if there were 44 killed in a bus crash incident and you would file a driving-without-license case against the driver. That’s how I would describe this situation,” he said.