Charges set vs Purisima, Napeñas over Mamasapano – Ombudsman

Bea Cupin
Charges set vs Purisima, Napeñas over Mamasapano – Ombudsman
The Ombudsman finds sacked PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas Jr responsible for the bloody clash in Mamasapano

MANILA, Philippines – The former chiefs of the Philippine National Police and the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) now face charges for their supposed involvement in an operation that killed at least 67 in 2015.

In a press statement on Tuesday, April 5, the Office of the Ombudsman said it will file cases against sacked PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas Jr before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

“The police officers are facing charges for Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions (Article 177, Revised Penal Code) and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019),” the Ombudsman said.

Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code covers persons who “knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government…who, under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine Government…without being lawfully entitled to do so.”

Section 3(a) of RA 3019, covers “persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation or offense.”

On January 25, 2015, over 200 SAF members entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao to target terrorists wanted by both the Philippines and the United States. The operation triggered clashes between the PNP and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups.

The 67 people killed in the clash included 5 civilians, 17 MILF fighters, and 44 SAF members.

Purisima and Napeñas both played key roles in the operation, from its conception to its eventual implementation.

Purisima was already on preventive suspension over a supposed anomalous deal in Camp Crame but he was still briefed by Napeñas and other SAF officials. He also sat in a briefing with President Benigno Aquino III.

Purisima will be charged for usurping official functions and for violating the PNP’s chain of command. Napeñas, said the Ombudsman, is considered “Purisima’s cohort for taking orders from a suspended PNP chief, without the knowledge and approval of OIC (Officer-in-Charge)-PNP Leonardo Espina.”

The Ombudsman pointed out the following key details unearthed by investigators:

  • In November 2014, the PNP-SAF submitted to Purisima the concept of operations for Oplan Terminator I and II, targeting bomb expert Marwan.
  • In December 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman issued an order directing Purisima’s preventive suspension effective from December 9 to June 10, 2015, relative to the WERFAST courier service contract anomaly.
  • Despite his preventive suspension, Purisima and Napeñas coordinated a top level meeting with officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippine on Oplan Exodus; the planning proper started on December 23, 2014.
  • In January 2015, Napeñas sent a text message to Purisima requesting a meeting to discuss the report on operations. On January 9, 2015, Purisima and Napeñas proceeded to Malacañang to provide the President with mission updates and a new concept of operations.
  • On January 13, 2015, Napeñas sought Purisima’s approval of the secondary date for the conduct of operations scheduled from January 23 to 26.

The Ombudsman said Purisima did the following:

  • Gave the intelligence packet to Napeñas and tasked the SAF to conceptualize the Marwan operation
  • Directed Napeñas to brief the President regarding Oplan Exodus 
  • Approved the final date of operation, constantly received pre-operational updates from Napeñas
  • Monitored events and relayed crucial information to Napeñas during that fateful date and sought updates on the ground situation

By being present in meetings regarding the top-secret operation, “Purisima was sending the unwritten yet visible message that he was, albeit he was not authorized to act and function as Chief PNP,” said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in a 40-page joint resolution.

“If Purisima had an iota of respect for the PNP Chain of Command, he should have informed, at the very least, of the details of the Plan Exodus during the turnover of his duties and functions to OIC-PNP Chief Espina,” said Morales.

The Ombudsman also dismissed charges against the following police officials: Intelligence Group chief Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez Jr, former SAF deputy chief Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño, and the following SAF officers: Richard Dela Rosa, Edgar Monsalve, Abraham Abayari, Raymund Agustin Train, Michael John Mangahis, Rey Ariño, and Recaredo Marasigan. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.