Case vs Aquino weak, Aguirre admits
The criminal charges brought against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, were weak, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Wednesday.
Retired SAF director Getulio Napeñas, who was immediately sacked following the botched Jan. 25, 2015, counterterrorism operation, agreed with Aguirre, his lawyer, during the Senate inquiry into the tragic incident.
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the indictment of Aquino for violation of the antigraft law and usurpation of authority for allowing his friend, then suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, to take part in carrying out the ill-fated operation.
The Ombudsman has found probable cause against Aquino “in conspiracy with Alan Purisima and Getulio Napeñas.”
Appropriate charges will be filed against them, the Ombudsman ruled.
Purisima was earlier dismissed from the service by the Ombudsman in a separate graft case involving the PNP’s delivery system for renewal of firearm licenses.
But the antigraft body junked the complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide filed by the kin of the 44 slain SAF troopers.
But Aguirre told reporters: “Those cases were of little value. As a matter of fact, we know that those are bailable cases which carry less than six years imprisonment.”
The justice secretary had previously claimed that Aquino and Purisima should be held responsible for the slaughter of the SAF personnel, as Napeñas only complied with their orders.
Napeñas, who went to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, said he believed the Ombudsman had weighed all the available evidence in recommending their criminal indictment, but maintained his innocence.
“I just heard from a DOJ undersecretary that the case was really weak,” he said in an ambush interview.
The former SAF chief also insisted that Aquino should explain why he did not order the military to immediately provide artillery support to the police commandos who were then engaged in a fierce predawn gunfight with a group of Moro rebels.
Napeñas said that if the Senate really wanted to uncover the truth behind the Mamasapano carnage, the senators should subpoena the executives of telecommunications firms Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom.
While the exchanges of text messages among the “key players” in the Mamasapano operation were submitted to the Senate, he said the mobile phones were not presented for forensic investigation.
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