MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III has filed his counter-affidavit before the Office of the Ombudsman over charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide filed against him by several families of the slain SAF 44.
Rappler obtained a copy of the counter-affidavit due December 19, 2016 but it was not immediately clear when it was filed. Former deputy press secretary Abigail Valte, who is still Aquino’s spokesperson, has not responded to Rappler as of posting time.
Aquino said he was not liable for Oplan Exodus because police operations do not need approval from the president. “My direct approval of Oplan Exodus was not necessary, neither was it sought,” the affidavit read. (READ: Noynoy Aquino tells Duterte: Mamasapano not my fault)
According to Aquino, he was briefed on Oplan Exodus only because former Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas wanted “to rebuild my confidence in his leadership and prove to me their competence.” (READ: FULL TEXT: ‘Binola ako ni Napeñas – Aquino)
Aquino recalled that prior to the January 9, 2015 briefing by Napeñas, he was informed by then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, his close friend, of the PNP’s failed attempts to serve the warrants against terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Usman.
“He visited me at a firing range and he relayed that the operation failed because the water boats carrying the SAF officers and their equipment sank in a river that needed to be crossed,” Aquino said.
Aquino said he expressed his frustration to Purisima, telling him the operations were miserably lacking in preparation. It was then that Napeñas, through Purisima, requested to see Aquino to brief him of the planned January 25 Oplan Exodus.
Aquino reiterated that when Napeñas told him of his plan to notify the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) only on a time-on-target basis, the former president said he specifically asked Napeñas to coordinate with the military several days before the operation and during the actual operation.
“I clearly recall respondent Napeñas replying to my order with an unequivocal “Yes Sir,” Aquino said in his affidavit.
‘Purisima only resource person’
The former president also refuted the complainants’ claim that he allowed Purisima to participate in the operation even if he was under the preventive suspension of the Ombudsman because of graft charges filed against him in a procurement mess.
Aquino said Purisima was involved in Oplan Exodus only as a resource person, having monitored Marwan during his tenure as PNP Chief.
“As the Chief Executive, I can directly order any person – any subordinate to be exact – to do what must be done. In the case of Purisima, he was a resource person providing vital information. I can very well, in fact I was duty-bound, to consider all sources of information, including Purisima’s intimate knowledge, to ensure that all material and invaluable information is shared to the relevant PNP officers involved in the planned Oplan Exodus,” his affidavit said.
Aquino argued that he cannot be held responsible for reckless imprudence pursuant to the doctrine of command responsibility. He argued that to be guilty of violating the doctrine, he should have had prior knowledge that a criminal act was about to be committed and that he did not do anything to stop the crime.
Aquino said that Oplan Exodus was not a criminal act, therefore the doctrine does not apply. “The PNP officers were not committing any crime when they executed and implemented Oplan Exodus. It was a legitimate police operation – the intent of which was to serve validly issued warrants,” his affidavit said.
Aquino pinned down Napeñas further in denying that there was negligence on his part. That he specifically ordered Napeñas to coordinate with the AFP, Aquino said, was solid proof that he exercised precaution.
Aquino also said that apart from the coordination with the AFP, Napeñas lied to him on more instances.
“I was informed that the water levels of the river would be low and that there would be alternative exit points. As later revealed, this was clearly not the case. I was also shown a list of AFP officers with whom Napeñas would be coordinating with – which I later discovered was outdated as the list contained the name of an officer who was no longer serving in that capacity. I was told that there would be 160 SAF seaborne troops. However I would find out much later that there were only less than 60 SAF seaborne operators,” he said in his affidavit.
Aquino also explained that for most of the day on January 25 while he was in Zamboanga City, he was being fed inaccurate and misleading information about the true conditions of the SAF troopers. “There was no indication whatsoever in the text messages that hostilities were ongoing. To the contrary, the text messages conveyed the impression that the hostilities were either terminated or winding down,” his affidavit read.
He also defended his government in the way they responded to the needs of the slain cops’ families.
Help to SAF families
“While we can never replace the lives that have been lost in this devastating and tragic incident, I would like to somehow believe that we have been able to alleviate and address some of the pressing needs and concerns of the survivors and families of our fallen soldiers. Our government had tried its best to provide the necessary assistance, whether in the form of a lump-sum benefit, pension and other related assistance, such as livelihood, housing and education,” he said in his affidavit.
Responding to this, Felicitas Nacino, mother of slain SAF officer PO3 Nikki Nacino, told Rappler in a phone interview: “Nakatulong po sila pero hindi po buo ‘yung pangako nila.” (They were able to help but they did not fulfill all of their promises.)
Nacino said that only 70% of the promised P300,000 livelihood had been released to them by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Nacino said that under the expanded scholarship program promised to them by the Aquino administration, both the slain police officer’s son and brother would be given educational assistance.
“Yun pong kapatid ni Nikki, ang binigay lang pang-isang sem. Isang sem lang ba siya mag-aaral? Pero nairaos namin at ngayong taon ay magtatapos na siya sa kolehiyo,” Nacino said.
(They gave Nikki’s brother tuition but only for one semester. Is he just in school for one semester? But we were able to make ends meet and this year he’s graduating from college.)
Nacino added that she only wants Aquino to take responsibility for what happened to her son: “Paano na wala siyang kasalanan, e sinabi na ng mga report, ng BOI, ng Senado na may kasalanan siya? Bakit ayaw niyang aminin? Alas-tres nang hapon buhay pa and anak ko, bakit wala pong tumulong, sino ang nagbigay ng stand down order? ‘Yan and gusto kong malaman.”
(How could he say he had no fault when both the BOI and Senate reports said he was accountable. Why doesn’t he just own up to it? My son was still alive at 3 in the afternoon, why didn’t anyone help? Who gave the stand down order? That’s what I want to know.) – Rappler.com