February 19, 2018, 11:54 am
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Mamasapano raps against Aquino ‘silly:’ Duterte

BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR AND JP LOPEZ

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday branded as “silly” and likely to “fail” the criminal charges recommended by the Ombudsman against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the Mamasapano incident in 2015 where 44 members of the PNP Special Action Forces (SAF) died.

The President, in a chance interview after the handover of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Malacañang, said he does not see how the former President could be “usurping” anyone because as the commander in chief he had the authority to consult with anyone, including a suspended police chief, or even issue orders.

Duterte added that Aquino was not a military man, which is why it was normal or likely for him to seek advice from professionals like then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima.

“You know, charging Aquino for that… Silly. Actually, my term there, it’s a silly charge,” he said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales last Friday ordered the filing of criminal charges against Aquino, along with   Purisima and SAF Director Getulio Napeñas, over the Mamsapano incident for violation of Usurpation of Authority (Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code) and Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).

The supposed criminal negligence of the former president was based on his participation and assistance in the planning of Oplan Exodus; approval of the operation with full knowledge that it was flawed; allowing Purisima not only to participate in the planning but to run the operation and proving information and intelligence, thereby giving pseudo-legal power to a suspended official; and for breach in the established norms inherent in a chain of command.

Duterte said he does not see anything wrong in Aquino seeking advice from Purisima. He added that Purisima was just providing inputs and was not directly involved in the operations on the ground.

Duterte added he does not see the operations in Mamasapano as a failure since, despite the death of several policemen, authorities were able to kill Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan,” and severed a finger of his that was used for DNA testing.

“It was a success because they were able to get the finger of Marwan,” he said.

Duterte, however, acknowledged the burden of Aquino over the supposed lack of assistance, reinforcements and support during the operations.

“The shortcoming is the burden of Aquino. May shortcomings doon. There was no assistance, reinforcements, the military air assets, the cannons there, it could have reached… But then you cannot do it, because you will also kill the people, the women, and children there.

Magkagulo tuloy. At tsaka pati ako, I will object to that. I will never order an operation against a certain place that would kill… Diyan sa Marawi, be careful. Do not… Do not kill civilians there,” he said.

Duterte made the statement after he initially slammed Morales for being critical of his threats against criminals.

He said  Morales should show proof that there are laws preventing him from threatening criminals.

“Conchita Morales blew her top and castigated me publicly for just mentioning ‘killing the criminals.’…Ombudsman Morales, find me a law which says I cannot threaten criminals with death. Find me a law which would bar me from saying, ‘I will destroy you if you destroy my country.’

Because if you can do that, I will step down tomorrow,” he said.

He also chided Morales for castigating him when she should be addressing alleged corruption involving people in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Ayusin mo iyang Ombudsman mo, akala mo santo kayo diyan. Do not play God and shut up. Wala ka namang batas, ibigay mo nga sa akin. Eh abogado ka, anak ng jueteng. Ako, ordinaryo lang, 75 pero alam ko ang batas ko. Ikaw, dumating ka pa ng Supreme Court, ‘di mo alam ‘yan? Mahiya ka sa sarili mo. Ako, nagpipigil ako kasi your brother is my balae, buti alam ng tao ‘yan,” he added. 

While reopening the Mamasapano investigation is the prerogative of the Senate blue ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, he should first outline what he wants to find out, senators said yesterday.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel IV said he will talk to Gordon “to find out what angle of the incident he wants to probe this time.

“Because that (probe) was already re-opened at the request of (former) Sen. (Juan Ponce) Enrile before. Hence, this will be the third investigation. Let me talk to him first,” Pimentel said.

Gordon on Sunday renewed his call for the reopening of Mamasapano incident following the recommendation of the Office of the Ombudsman to file graft and usurpation charges against former Aquino, Purisima and former SAF head Getulio Napenas.

During the last Congress, the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs chaired by Sen. Grace Poe found Aquino “ultimately responsible” in the death of 44 SAF members.

“But, of course, it would be to the interest of the public and the members of the Senate to know the clear objectives of Senator Gordon in putting forward such proposal,” Poe said.

“Whatever new and relevant information that can be unearthed from this inquiry, in aid of legislation, will be beneficial not only to the families of the SAF 44, but also to the Filipino people,” she added.

Gordon said he would like Aquino invited once the hearing is reopened but Poe said Aquino will likely invoke his right not to talk about the case as it is already being handled by the court.

“Whatever disagreement anyone has with the determination of the Ombudsman, let us give her office the opportunity to review the same through the processes allowed by law and remedies given to the parties in the case,” she said.

“As it is, we are one with the Filipino people in the pursuit of justice and truth on this matter,” she added.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV gave the cold shoulder to Gordon’s proposal, and chided his colleague for being eager-beaver in the Mamasapano case but not on the current extra-judicial killings.

“Sen. Gordon would rather focus his attention on the past issue that was thoroughly investigated by the previous Congress but has no time on the cases of thousands of Filipino being killed under the present administration,” he said.

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, who as Justice Secretary filed cases against MILF members involved in the incident, said Gordon wants to resurrect the dead issue “with the added attraction” of nailing Aquino to the cross.

“This investigation will have no other purpose than to once again crucify the former President, and squeeze this issue for all the juice left and what it is still worth, in order to cover up for the present Administration’s own bungling and incompetence,” De Lima said.

“For all the circus objectives that the revived Mamasapano investigation has to offer, to me it’s meant to be a mere distraction from the incompetence of this government and the subservience of Congress, and yet again, as a political leverage and harassment versus the opposition,” she added.
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