MANILA, Philippines – The Liberal Party (LP) defended its chairman emeritus, former president Benigno Aquino III on Friday, July 14, after the Ombudsman ordered the filing of graft and usurpation of authority charges against him for his role in a bungled police operation that claimed the lives of more than 60 people, including 44 elite policemen.
“The Liberal Party stands by President Aquino, as well, in his life-long commitment to the peace process in Mindanao, and sees his actions in relation to Mamasapano as imperatives in good faith to advance the cause of justice and peace in Mindanao,” said party president Senator Francis Pangilinan in a statement released to media.
In a resolution issued on July 14, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she ordered Aquino’s indictment because he allowed his friend, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima to play a part in the operation despite his suspension over corruption charges.
The operation, launched on January 25, 2015, aimed to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and several other wanted terrorists.
But “Oplan Exodus,” which investigators later characterized as “defective,” flopped in the wee hours of the morning. Two companies of PNP Special Action Force (SAF) troopers encountered local armed groups in two villages in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
After almost an entire day of fighting, 44 policemen, 14 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and at least 4 civilians were killed.
“An initial reading shows that there may have been a misappreciation of some facts surrounding the incident, leading to some erroneous conclusions. He will seek to clarify the same through a motion for reconsideration,” said Aquino through his spokesperson, former palace spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Pangilinan has as much to say. “The Liberal Party expresses its faith in the ability of Former President Benigno Aquino III to defend his actions before, during and after the tragic Mamasapano event.”
The Mamasapano clash and its aftermath was among the lowest points of Aquino’s presidency. His ratings dipped in the months after and allegations and negligence hounded him even after he stepped down in June 2016.
The clash also triggered a series of events that led to the failure of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. (READ: President Aquino and the ghosts of Mamasapano)
Morales, an Aquino appointee, had earlier ordered a forfeiture case filed against Purisima for allegedly amassing P29.2 million in ill-gotten wealth during his time in office.
Purisima was suspended in December 2014 – during which Oplan Exodus was finalized – over an allegedly anomalous deal with a courier service. The same case was the basis for his dismissal from service in June 2015.
Purisima and Getulio Napeñas Jr., the SAF director who planned and implemented the botched operation – were tagged Aquino’s “co-conspirators” in the case. They had earlier been charged before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in January 2017 one count each of usurpation of public function and graft.
Pangilinan said the party trusts Morales to be fair. “We also express our trust in Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales: that she will oversee this necessary process of truth-seeking with fairness and credibility,” he said.
Aquino and Purisima go a long way. (READ: Aquino, General Purisima and the past that binds them)
They first met when the former president’s late mother, Cory Aquino, was still commander-in-chief. Purisima, a member of the Presidential Security Group then, was assigned to guard Aquino. – Rappler.com