Incumbent presidents can’t be sued for usurpation of power – Martires
MANILA, Philippines — The reason for the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to withdraw its graft and usurpation charges against former President Benigno S. Aquino III from the Sandiganbayan was because no president can usurp the authority of his subordinates.
This was explained by Ombudsman Samuel Martires as he attended the hearing at the graft court’s Fourth Division on Friday.
“The motion was based on the immunity of the president concerned, during his incumbency. No president of the Republic of the Philippines can be accused of usurpation of official functions,” he pointed out.
“Presidente ng Pilipinas ‘yon, lahat ng powers nasa kanya, so paano na ang presidente ang mag-usurp ng powers ng pulis eh under sa kanya lahat ‘yon as commander-in-chief?” he said in a later interview.
According to Martires, a lawyer who thinks that an incumbent president can be sued for usurping authority must go back to law school and study again.
“Anyone who claims otherwise, if he is a lawyer, must go back to the college of law I’m sorry to say this. As for the non-lawyers, they should first take up law and understand the extent of usurpation. No president can usurp the powers of any official under his supervision,” he added.
Martires, however, clarified later on that he was not referring to former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who filed the cases against Aquino, et al.
Last June 24, the Office of the Ombudsman filed a motion withdrawing its usurpation and graft cases against Aquino in connection with the implementation of Oplan Exodus – a clandestine police operation to capture Malaysian bomb expert and terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and Filipino radical Basit Usman in 2015. Aquino’s co-accused in the cases are Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Alan Purisima and former Special Action Forces (SAF) commander Maj. Gen. Getulio Napeñas, who executed Oplan Exodus.
While Marwan was killed during the police operation, 44 SAF members were also killed in that encounter by alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
During Friday’s hearing, however, the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division said it would only hear the motion to withdraw charges once the Supreme Court lifts the temporary restraining order on the case.
“I think both parties would agree that we will await the Supreme Court,” Fourth Division chairperson and Associate Justice Alex Quiroz.
The trial of Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas was put on hold in February 2018 based on the request of groups that the former government officials should face more serious charges for the Mamasapano incident.
(Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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