Manila: Relatives called for homicide charges to be filed against former President Benigno Aquino after he was indicted by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for command responsibility and criminal negligence, which resulted in the death of 44 special police commandos during a botched anti-terror police operation that killed its major target — a Malaysian bomb maker in the southern Philippines in January 2015.
“Former President Aquino authorised the operation that was planned and implemented by former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, who was suspended at the time. The former president did not tell the military’s chief of staff and the secretary of interior about it — preventing a coordination between the military and fighters of the 38-year-old Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which forged a pro-autonomy peace settlement with the government in 2014.
“This could have protected the police in its anti-terror operation. He did not order a rescue operation when the police forces were beleaguered by members of the MILF, including a renegade faction, the eight-year-old Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in the territories controlled by them in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli Bin Abdhir was reportedly killed,” Ferdinand Topacio, counsel of the relatives of the slain policemen told Gulf News.
“Instead of citing command responsibility as a basis for indicting him in the case, criminal negligence should be filed against him. A lot of people died because of his negligence,” Topacio explained.
“Funds are being raised for the relatives of the slain policemen — they want to be in Manila to meet the deadline in signing the motion for reconsideration.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo predicted, “There is a time for reckoning. The time has finally come for the former president.”
In reaction, Aquino’s former deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said, “There may have been a mis-appreciation of some facts surrounding the incident, leading to some erroneous conclusions.”
Aquino will appeal the indictment, she added.
Explaining her ruling released on Friday, Carpio-Morales cited “lack of probable cause” when she dismissed the proposed filing of charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino.
Instead, Carpio-Morales accused Aquino of graft because he acted with “complicity and influence” when he allowed former police chief Purisima to plan and implement “Oplan Exodus” to get a Malaysian terror trophy leader.
She also accused Purisima and former Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas of usurpation of authority — “they falsely represented themselves as government officials without being lawfully entitled to do so”. Despite being under preventive suspension, Purisima sent messages to Aquino’s mobile phone: “he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas (his subordinate) and over the operation,” Carpio-Morales narrated.
The incident prevented lawmakers in Congress from passing a proposed law that was designed to implement provisions of the Philippine government-MILF peace settlement. It was the greatest challenge ever faced by Aquino during his term.