November 24, 2017, 6:13 am
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Ombudsman affirms Aquino indictment for Mamasapano tragedy

FORMER President Benigno S. Aquino III has failed to sway the Office of the Ombudsman to recall criminal indictments against him in relation to the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano tragedy that resulted in 67 deaths, including 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF).

In a 27-page Resolution, the Ombudsman’s Special Panel of Investigators denied Aquino’s Motion for Reconsideration last July 19 seeking the reversal of the Ombudsman’s ruling dated June 13, 2017 that found probable cause to charge him with violations of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (usurpation of authority) and Section 3 (a) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an unlawful act) together with dismissed former PNP Chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-SAF Director Getulio Napeñas.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the resolution last September 11 based on the recommendation of Special Panel members Reza Casila-Derayunan, Rowena Vidad, and Lyn Llamasares.

An informant at the Ombudsman said the information for the charges are now being drafted and is expected to be filed next week.

Based on the original complaint, Aquino was accused of disregarding Purisima’s suspension by the Ombudsman when he allowed the latter to actively participate in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus for the capture or neutralization of wanted international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his cohort, Akmad Ahmad Batabol alias Basit Usman. At the time, Purisima was serving out a 90-day suspension on a corruption probe.

Complainants Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and parents of the slain SAF troopers had sought charges against Aquino for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.

In his appeal to the indictment, Aquino argued that he defended himself against allegations related to reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and was blindsided by the two criminal offenses cited by the Ombudsman.

He said the two charges were “totally separate, distinct, and different from the charges” leveled against him in the complaint, in violation of his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

He added that the allegation of conspiracy among him, Purisima and Napeñas is incompatible with the allegation of negligence on his part since negligence denotes the absence of intent, while conspiracy involves a meeting of the minds to commit a crime.

Aquino argued that Purisima’s only participation was as a resource person because as a ranking official of the PNP, albeit under suspension, he had “intimate knowledge of the intelligence on Marwan and Usman” and the special operations that were planned to arrest the two.

He said he needed Purisima to explain to him the technical details of Oplan Exodus that was presented by Napeñas.

On the other hand, the VACC and the relatives of the slain SAF officers insisted that Aquino’s negligence was the proximate cause of death of the SAF 44 including his decision to involve a suspended Purisima and his supposed failure to send reinforcements to rescue the trapped police officers.

The Ombudsman disagreed with both camps.

It held that Aquino’s claim that his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated was wrong because such right is only accorded to a person who is already facing a criminal case in court, not someone who is a respondent in a complaint.

“President Aquino cannot demand the exercise of this constitutional right at his stage of the proceedings because he is not yet an accused person…the present proceedings not being a trial,” the Ombudsman said.

On the issues raised by the complainants, the Ombudsman overruled their contention that negligence was the proximate cause of the death of the police officers because of the occurrence of an “efficient intervening cause” or the attack by hostile forces which it said was the “actual direct, immediate and proximate cause of the deaths.”

Lawyer Abigail Valte, Aquino’s spokesman, said the former president will meet his legal teams to determine his next actions. – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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