De Lima: Aquino has no criminal liability over Mamasapano clash
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday she could not see any criminal culpability on the part of President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the Mamasapano clash where 67 Filipinos were killed.
Based on the report of the Board of Inquiry (BOI), the President violated the chain of command when he directly dealt with Director Getulio Napeñas, then commander of the police Special Action Force (SAF), in connection with “Oplan Exodus.”
BACKSTORY: Full report: The Mamasapano incident
“As of now, I do not see any criminal culpability on the part of the President,” De Lima told reporters.
De Lima reiterated that the chain of command applies only to the military.
She said the President is not the commander-in-chief of the Philippine National Police because under the 1987 Constitution, PNP is a civilian agency.
“Therefore, being civilian in character, to them, the President is the Chief Executive,” De Lima said.
As chief executive, she said the President can bypass any official.
“He can bypass us, his Cabinet secretaries. Since we are alter egos, he can go directly to any of our subordinates,” De Lima said, citing as example when the President directly talks to the head of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“And he does that sometimes if he wants to consult something,” De Lima said. NBI is an agency under the Department of Justice.
Still, De Lima said, even if the BOI report was “based on the wrong premise,” it will not affect their investigation because the focus of their probe is to identify who should be criminally charged for the death of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.
“Our focus is the criminal aspect, not of the President [because] we have no jurisdiction to determine the criminal liability on the part of the President,” she said.