Purisima seeks dismissal of cases connected to Mamasapano incident
Dismissed Director General Alan Purisima, former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has asked the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to dismiss his cases in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident – in a departure from his earlier move to submit to trial.
Though already arraigned on Feb. 23, Purisima filed on Aug. 5 a motion to quash the cases because the charged were rendered “defective” by the June 13 order of the Office of the Ombudsman to indict former President Benigno Aquino III.
In a 16-page motion recently obtained by the Inquirer, Purisima cited this “supervening event” as an exception under Section 9, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, which would allow him to challenge the validity of his indictment for graft and usurpation of authority.
Under the said rule, an accused’s failure to file a motion to quash before entering a plea during arraignment is deemed to be a waiver of any objection to the validity of the charges.
Purisima said his case fell under the exceptions because the allegations to which he pleaded not guilty would “significantly change” after the Ombudsman held Aquino criminally liable for violations that led to the Jan. 25, 2015 incident.
President can’t usurp his own power
He said the usurpation of authority charge stopped being valid because “the President cannot be accused of usurping a power or function that is vested in him by no less than the Constitution.”
Purisima said he and his coaccused, retired Director Getulio Napeñas, former chief of the Special Action Force, could not be accused of being in a conspiracy with Aquino because the latter “had the authority and prerogative” to call on any person to assist him and bypass any official.
“The authority that Accused Purisima allegedly usurped ultimately pertains to President Aquino himself. What then did Accused Purisima usurp if the authority he allegedly usurped pertains to one of his co-conspirators?” read the motion.
The then-suspended PNP chief argued the cases should fail because Aquino should not be faulted for relying on him instead of the PNP officer-in-charge, Director Leonardo Espina.
“To say that the President was bound to follow the so-called PNP ‘chain of command’ is to emasculate his executive power,” the motion stated.
Mere resource person
Purisima also claimed the planning of the so-called Oplan Exodus was delegated to Napeñas as early as April 2014, and he never performed any function pertaining to his position as PNP chief.
Echoing Aquino’s insistence, Purisima said he was a mere “resource person to aid the President and facilitate the meetings between Accused Napeñas and President Aquino.”
Purisima added that he “never acted under the pretense of official function,” and Napeñas and Aquino were well aware that he was suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman at the time pending investigation of an allegedly anomalous Werfast firearms license delivery deal.
He also argued that the PNP chain of command was “not a rule or regulation” but an “abstract principle followed in the military” that may be compared to the delineation of authority in civilian organizations.
According to prosecutors, however, Purisima’s motion was “extremely premature,” because the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause against Aquino is currently on appeal and no case has been brought to the Sandiganbayan yet.
In a seven-page comment dated Aug. 25, also obtained by the Inquirer, the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor added that Purisima’s latest assertions were “evidentiary in nature” and should be threshed out in a full-blown trial, for which pre-trial proceedings are already underway.
The OSP added the case should not be dismissed by way of a motion to quash because the allegations, if hypothetically admitted, would still establish the essential elements of the crimes of graft and usurpation of authority.
While Purisima downplayed his participation in Oplan Exodus, the OSP said “directional and supervisory control” remained with him even during the period of his preventive suspension.
The prosecution also belied Purisima’s claim that command responsibility was an “abstract principle” and said he “appears to have forgotten the Philippine National Police Manual (PNPM-D-0-1-2-13) issued during his tenure in October 2013.”
The said manual specifically established the chain of command.
During the Jan. 25, 2015 incident, 44 elite commandos were killed by the rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and various private armed groups.
Controversy flared after it was revealed that Aquino entrusted the operation to neutralize two terror targets to his close friend Purisima despite his suspension.
The incident also led to doubts about the government’s peace process with the MILF and eventually killed the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in the 16th Congress. /atm