Aquino's Mamasapano indictment 'bad precedent' – Trillanes
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the Ombudsman's order to indict former president Benigno Aquino III for graft and usurpation of authority over the botched 2015 police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao could be a "bad precedent" for military commanders.
"Kapag pumapalpak ang isang operation, merong mga mechanisms para siguraduhin na hindi mauulit 'yung ganoong disastrous results pero hindi kinakasuhan 'yung mga ganoong negative results. Kagaya nito sa Marawi… it will also mean na vulnerable ang mga commanders," said Trillanes, a former Philippine Navy officer, during a press conference on the sidelines of a forum on Sunday, July 16.
(When an operation fails, there are mechanisms to make sure that the disastrous results won't happen again. But the officials are not sued for those negative results. Like in Marawi... it would mean that commanders are also vulnerable.)
"Sana 'wag natin gawin precedent 'yung sa Mamasapano na ito (I hope we don't make a precedent out of Mamasapano)," Trillanes said, adding that emotions ran high over the botched police operation.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had ordered the filing of charges against Aquino for his alleged role in a January 25, 2015 Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) operation against a Malaysian bomb maker. (READ: Mamasapano clash: What did Aquino know?)
While SAF troopers were able to get one of their targets, the operation soon turned awry as the elite cops found themselves trapped and surrounded by local armed groups.
After a gunfight that lasted nearly a day, 44 of the SAF troopers, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and at least 4 civilians were killed.
Aquino is being indicted for allowing his friend, then PNP chief Alan Purisima, to play a role in the operation even while he was serving a suspension order that stemmed from corruption allegations.
Purisima played a key role in the planning of the operation prior to his suspension. But he continued to sit in meetings and get updates on the operation even after he was suspended in December 2014. (READ: Mamasapano generals: Where are they now?)
The former president was able to get updates from the ground through Purisima, mostly through text messages. The same text messages show Aquino knew key details of Oplan Exodus.
When asked how it was comparable to the situation in Marawi City when Purisima was a suspended official then, Trillanes said: "Chain of command ang ginamit ni President Aquino. Ngayon, kung nag-uusap man sila ni General Purisima, hindi bawal 'yun kasi kaibigan niyang personal si General Purisima. 'Yung suspension ni General Purisima, hindi ibig sabihin na bawal mag-text si Pangulo sa kanya."
(President Aquino used the chain of command. Now, if indeed he was talking to General Purisima, that's not prohibited because Purisima is his friend. General Purisima's suspension did not mean that the President wasn't allowed to text him.)
Noticeably kept in the dark were then interior secretary Manuel Roxas II and Leonardo Espina, officer-in-charge of the PNP given Purisima's suspension. They only knew of the mission after it was launched.
"Napeñas was given the resources," added Trillanes, referring to Getulio Napeñas, chief of the SAF then.
Reiterating previous findings during a 2015 and 2016 Senate probe into the botched operation, Trillanes said Aquino never ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to hold back in providing support for the trapped cops.
The AFP insists soldiers tried their best to respond to the distress call but were unable to launch artillery because of the late coordination and the SAF's supposed lack of clear coordinates. The SAF purposefully kept the military out of the dark because they were allegedly "compromised."
They instead coordinated "time on target" or just when the operation was launched.
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, himself a former Philippine Marine, said it was impossible for Aquino to "break" the chain of command because he was on top of it. "When a commander bypasses to the lower units, that's not a violation of the chain of command," he noted.
It was up to the subordinate, said Alejano, to make sure that his direct superior was aware of the President's orders.
Napeñas earlier said Purisima told him not to tell both Espina and Roxas about Oplan Exodus. While Purisima said it was merely "advice," Napeñas said he took it as an order coming from a then suspended superior.
Both Napeñas and Purisima face the same graft and usurpation of authority charges. (READ: 'Aquino, Purisima, Napeñas liable for Mamasapano')
The Liberal Party (LP), which Aquino leads as chairman emeritus, earlier expressed support for the former president. Neither Trillanes nor Alejano are members of the once-ruling party but they were allied with it in the past.
The two legislators are also part of the minority in their respective chambers of Congress, alongside LP members and allies. – Rappler.com