SAF widows welcome Aquino indictment


Sen. Gordon says former president should face ‘graver charges’

The widows of the fallen Special Action Force (SAF) commandos welcomed the Office of the Ombudsman’s recent order to file criminal charges against former Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III over his alleged role in the botched Mamasapano operation conducted two years ago.

“He (Aquino) is the primary official responsible for the death of our loved ones,” Melanie Duque told Inquirer on Saturday, July 15.

Duque is the wife of PO3 Andres Duque Jr., one of the fallen 44 SAF troopers who were ambushed by Moro rebels during an operation on January 25, 2015 — dubbed as “Oplan Exodus” — that aims capture two Malaysian terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

On Friday, July 14, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales indicted Aquino for the usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code, and for violating the Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act  (RA) No. 3019.

Also cited as Aquino’s co-respondents were former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) head Getulio Napeñas.

With the Ombudsman’s order, Duque expressed hope that she and other families of the fallen SAF troopers would finally obtain the long-sought justice for their loved ones.

“I have been crying. [With the latest development], I believe that PO3 Duque is rejoicing,” she added.

Merlyn Gamutan, widow of Senior Insp. Joey Gamutan, also wanted Aquino and his other top police officials be held liable for the tragic event, pointing out that their husbands would still be alive “if not for their negligence.”

Kristine Clemencio, widow of PO1 Mark Lory Clemencio, likewise, welcomed the Ombudsman’s order.

“I am happy with this development. [I] hope this will be the first step for us to achieve the justice we have been seeking all this time,” Clemencio said.

While admitting that she fears the case against Aquino may not prosper, she said she is “ only pinning [her] hope to President [Rodrigo] Duterte who personally gave his assurance to [them] that justice would be served to [them] and our loved ones.”

For Christine Cempron, widow of PO1 Romeo Cempron, the search for justice may still had a long way to go but she “will endure it to secure justice for the SAF 44.”

Cempron said Aquino and Purisima “have the hardest hearts, as if they have not committed any lapses, as if nothing happened.”

“I don’t care if it will take a long time. At least, the case is moving,” she added.

‘Graver charges’

In a radio interview, Senator Richard Gordon said Aquino should have been charged with with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide,

He pointed out that Aquino, as the then-commander-in-chief,  was clearly in charge of the operation.

“If you were to ask me, without going to the Ombudsman I would have filed graver charges. It is clearly multiple homicide to reckless imprudence,” said Gordon, who also heads the Senate committee on justice and human rights.

The Office of the Ombudsman recommend the filing of graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas but it dismissed the “complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide” against them due to  “lack of probable cause.”

Gordon remarked that the Ombudsman “watered down” the sins of Aquino when it did not indict homicide charges against the former president.

He said the Senate would definitely reopen its investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy and will invite Aquino to the proceedings.

“Yes I will invite him (Aquino), nobody will be exempted,” Gordon said.

Following the proposal to reopen the Mamasapano probe, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who was quick to criticize Gordon, said that the Senate should instead reinvestigate the supposed thousands of deaths in connection with the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“Mas aatupagin pa ni Sen. Gordon ‘yung nakaraang issue na piniga na ng husto ng dating Congreso pero ‘yung mga libo-libong pinapatay na Pilipino sa kasalukuyan, wala siyang panahon (Gordon would rather deal with an old issue that has already been squeezed out by the previous Congress, but for the thousands of Filipinos being killed presently, he has no time),” Trillanes said.

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