SAF 44 suit vs Purisima et al. to go on trial
LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET— They are not protected by the legal principle that the state cannot be sued.
With this statement, a court here rejected a petition to dismiss a P12-million damage suit against former PNP Director General Alan Purisima, retired Police Director Getulio Napeñas and three Army officials in connection with the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, 2015, that killed 44 Special Action Force commandos.
Purisima and his codefendants asked the Benguet Regional Trial Court to dismiss the case filed by the widow and parents of Senior Insp. Getnad Tabdi, asserting that they were covered by a constitutional provision preventing anyone from suing the government.
Tabdi was among the 44 SAF members killed by armed militants in Mamasapano.
Purisima, Napeñas, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and Col. Gener del Rosario argued in their separate motions that they performed their official functions as agents of the state when they oversaw the operation to arrest a suspected terrorist, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.
They were referring to Section 3, Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution, which said that the state “may not be sued without its consent.” This is also called the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
But in a Dec. 19, 2016 order released only last week, Judge Danilo Camacho of RTC Branch 62 said “the defendants cannot hide behind [this legal principle] for their sloppy and neglectful performance of duty as government officials.”
“Government officials and employees are accountable for their actions as such under the principle that the public office is a public trust,” Camacho said in his order.
Tabdi’s widow, Leah Tabdi, and his parents, Garcia and Edna Tabdi, accused the five men of negligence that led to the commandos’ death.
They said Napeñas, the SAF commander, had allegedly broken the chain of command by reporting to Purisima, a former PNP chief, in the course of the operation, instead of Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, then acting PNP chief.
Purisima was serving a six-month suspension at the time but offered to coordinate the operation with the military.
The Tabdi family said Purisima failed to coordinate artillery support that would have saved their son and the 43 other SAF members.
They sued the military officers for allegedly failing to act and rescue the policemen.
Pangilinan was the commander of the 8th Infantry Division, Guerrero was area commander of the Western Mindanao Command and Del Rosario was the brigade commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
Purisima and Napeñas claimed that the complaint had “no cause of action” and was premature because of pending investigations when it was filed.
Napeñas also said the complainants failed to exhaust all “available administrative remedies.” —KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
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