Aquino: My conscience is clear
Former President Benigno Aquino III is unfazed by his indictment in the Mamasapano debacle, vowing that his political detractors will not be able to bring him down for the bungled police counterterrorism operation that led to the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
Breaking his silence, Aquino told the Inquirer in an interview on Monday: “In my conscience, I am very clear.”
Asked if his political enemies would be able to get him with Mamasapano, he replied: “No.”
On Friday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing in the Sandiganbayan of criminal charges of usurpation of authority and graft against Aquino, then Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas.
The graft charge carries a penalty ranging from six to 10 years in prison, while usurpation of authority is punishable by six months to six years in prison.
The charges stemmed from the SAF operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015, that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, at the expense of 44 commando lives.
Purisima was allowed to direct the SAF operation although he was under suspension on graft charges.
Aquino acknowledged that Mamasapano was “one of the issues that had traction” during his incumbency.
“And my enemies, those who I want to characterize as wanting to preserve the wrong system for us, really tried to milk the issue for all it’s worth,” he said.
All about politics
It was unfortunate, Aquino said, that politics got in the way of the truth.
“Instead of helping to arrive at a thorough investigation that could have put a rest to all of the issues attendant to it, they tried to promote a lot of conspiracy angles and side issues to milk the issue,” he said.
Aquino looks at the case he is facing as an “opportunity to clear up the picture, in case there are those who want to know the truth.”
Aquino’s lawyers are set to submit his motion for reconsideration (MR) today.
He was careful not to give details on his reply to the charges leveled against him until the MR is formally filed.
But Aquino said he was “caught by tremendous surprise” to see the charges against him.
“I was not aware there was a complaint lodged against me needing a resolution. So I asked my lawyers was I ever complained about on those two aspects and they told me that there was never any complaint. Since there was no complaint, there was never any situation where we had to submit a counteraffidavit and state our version, or our interpretation of the facts,” he said.
“So to have something resolved when there was no complaint was something rather vague,” he said.
“I am not a lawyer, but I am aware of the right to know of what you are being charged with, right to face the accusers and things like that,” Aquino said.
Still, Aquino said, he continued “to believe and to have faith” in Morales. She swore him into office in June 2010 and he appointed her as Ombudsman after she retired from the Supreme Court.
He admitted that he was also quite affected by the fact that it was Morales who filed the case against him.
It would be “hypocritical,” Aquino said, to say otherwise.
“I try to understand where they are coming from,” he said.
No to Congress probe
Aquino also said he would rather “bring up clarifications” on Mamasapano before the Office of the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan, instead of a congressional inquiry.
“How will this add to the quest for legislation?” he
To the SAF families who want to see him jailed, Aquino said he was aware that wanting to blame someone for the loss of a loved one was being “human.”
“I understand everybody who suffered the loss would have [to undergo] this whole process to come to terms with the loss, that knowing exactly what happened can lead to closure and to moving on,” he said.
Aquino believes that his critics are also behind the families who continue to slam him for Mamasapano.
Filing cases against these persons is not far from Aquino’s mind.
He will identify them, he said, “once I have the proof that can be utilized in court if I file the necessary cases.”
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