Aquino faces trial over SAF 44

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OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio-Morales on Thursday upheld the finding of probable cause to charge former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III before the Sandiganbayan for the botched 2015 Mamasapano operation.  

Aquino will face trial for one count of violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and one count of Usurpation of Official Functions.

The Ombudsman maintained Aquino could be held liable for multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

The Mamasapano operation resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force soldiers.

Aquino spokesman Abigail Valte said she would have to meet with her legal team “to determine her  next course of action on the case.

She said the Ombudsman might have misunderstood the facts and reached the wrong conclusion. 

In a Sept. 11 consolidated order issued on Thursday, Morales denied the separate motions for reconsideration filed by Aquino and the complainants Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and affirmed the findings contained in the June 13 consolidated resolution. 

“President Aquino’s act of utilizing the services of the preventively suspended [Alan] Purisima for Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation, despite an officer in charge [of the] Philippine National Police chief having been already designated, caused Purisima to perform under pretense of official position the acts pertaining to the PNP chief without being lawfully entitled to do so in violation of Article 177 of the RPC on Usurpation of Official Functions,” the resolution read.

Former President Benigno Aquino III

“President Aquino’s act of utilizing the services of Purisima for Oplan Exodus under the aforesaid circumstances constituted an act of persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform acts constituting a violation of the order of preventive suspension and a commission of usurpation of official functions in violation of Section 3(a) of RA No. 3019.” 

Aquino filed a motion for reconsideration saying all the actions he carried out during the briefing for Oplan Exodus and its implementation were perfectly within the bounds of his powers and functions as the President of the Philippines and Chief Executive.  

“He can directly order any person or any subordinate to do what must be done―including those acting as resource persons to provide vital information and inputs to guide him in fully understanding the nuances of a police operation,” Aquino’s plea read.

“There is nothing irregular, much less illegal, about his act of utilizing all the resources available at his disposal, including sourcing information and inputs from anyone―whether they are in active service or not.

“His only intent was to utilize the expertise of Purisima and not for Purisima to command or plan anything but just to help him understand what Napeñas and his people were talking about and that he was a passive receiver of information regarding an ongoing operation.”

The former President said he was denied due process since he was not informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against him.

The VACC said Aquino’s negligence was the proximate cause of the deaths of 44 Special Action Force soldiers within the contemplation of the law on reckless imprudence.  

“In addition to the absence of probable cause, the counsel’s theory that 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide lie against respondents is clearly bereft of merit,” the Ombudsman ruled.

“Any negligence during the planning, preparation and actual implementation of Oplan Exodus was subsequently broken by the occurrence of an efficient intervening cause,” which was the intentional act of shooting by the hostile forces.

“On certain points of law concerning the quasi-offense of reckless imprudence, the careless act is single whether the injurious result affects one person or several persons, and criminal negligence remains one and the same and cannot be split into different crimes and prosecutions.” 

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