MANILA, Philippines – Families of several elite cops killed in the Mamasapano encounter in 2015 have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to reconsider its decision to clear former president Benigno Aquino III of charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
Several families of the 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force members (SAF 44) who were killed in the botched Mamasapano operation, represented by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), had earlier filed 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against Aquino. At 4 years’ prison time per count, this is equivalent to a jail time of 176 years.
In their motion for reconsideration filed before the Ombudsman on Wednesday, the complainants insisted that Aquino’s negligence led to the deaths of the 44 elite cops. The motion said Aquino’s “first act” of approving Oplan Exodus “set off the chain of events” that killed the SAF 44.
On July 14, the Ombudsman ordered graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino over his role in the Mamasapano encounter, and dismissed the other charges against him. Graft carries a maximum jail time of 15 years.
“Hindi po commensurate ‘yung penalty ng graft sa 44 lives na ninakaw ni Pangulong Aquino. Para sa amin, hindi karapat-dapat ang graft kasi buhay ang nawala dito, 44 lives were lost, How can you equate 44 lives to graft?” said VACC legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio.
(The penalty of graft is not commensurate to the 44 lives stolen by President Aquino. It is not right to charge him of graft because lives were lost, 44 lives were lost. How can you equate 44 lives to graft?)
The Ombudsman’s decision to file graft and usurpation of authority charges was based on Aquino’s decision to allow then suspended police chief Director General Alan Purisima to participated in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus, the operation against terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.
Five of the 8 SAF relatives named as complainants in the 3 consolidated motions for reconsideration joined the VACC at the Ombudsman on Wednesday. The VACC which is leading the case buildup in the impeachment complaint against Morales yet to be formally filed before the House of Representatives.
‘Bound to fail’
On Wednesday, Topacio echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiment that the indictment was “silly and bound to fail.”
“(Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales) is filing these cases knowing they are bound to fail, para hindi mahirapan (si Aquino). Magkaka-moro-moro lang, they will go through the motions pero napakadali po talagang idepensa ito. It goes without saying,” Topacio said.
“(Morales) is filing these cases knowing they are bound to fail, so Aquino will not have a hard time. It’s a farce, they will go through motions, but these are very easy to defend. It goes without saying,” he said.
Morales said in her resolution that she dismissed these charges because reckless imprudence resulting in homicide needs the element of a proximate cause.
Morales said the proximate cause was the “intentional act of shooting by hostile forces that included members of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and PAGs (Private Armed Groups).”
The complainants dismissed Morales’ analogy is “primitive.”
They cited a Supreme Court (SC) ruling which states “It may be true that the actual, direct, immediate and proximate cause of the injury of Roy Jr was the vehicular accident when he was hit by a taxi. The petitioners, however, cannot simply invoke such fact alone to excuse themselves from any liability.”
For Topacio, it is like saying that the bumper of the vehicle which hit the pedestrian is the liable one for an accident, and not the driver.
“Who put the SAF 44 in the line of fire that made them easy targets for the guns of the hostile forces? Definitely not the MILF, not the BIFF, not the PAGs. The SAF 44 were there due to the defective orders of a defective president, respondent Aquino. He is thus the proximate cause,” the complaint said. (READ: President Aquino and the ghosts of Mamasapano)
Morales said in her resolution that only to Purisima and former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas are responsible for the lapses in the operations. Purisima and Napeñas were charged of graft and usurpation of public functions before the anti-gaft court Sandiganbayan.
Felicitas Nacino, mother of slain Police Officer 2 Nicky Nacino, said she was still hurt by Aquino’s decisiont not to join them at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City for the heroes’ welcome for the SAF 44. Aquino, who was scheduled to attend the necrological services for the slain cops the following day, decided to push through with a scheduled car event instead.
“Sabi niya siya ang ama, siya ang magulang, siya ang dapat sumalubong kung totoong mahal niya ang mga pulis na ‘yun. Nasaan po siya noon? Kaya kailangan po talaga namin ang hustisya,” Nacino said, wailing to reporters.
(He said he’s the father, he’s the parent. He should have been the one to receive the bodies of those police if he truly loved them. But where was he? That’s why we need justice.)
WATCH: Felicitas Nacino, mother of slain SAF P02 Nicky Nacino, wants higher indictment for Aquino pic.twitter.com/k8nBYTkqRe— Lian Buan (@lianbuan) July 19, 2017
Telly Sombilla, mother of Police Officer 3 John Lloyd Sombilla, called Morales’ indictment of Aquino “consuelo de bobo (consolation prize).”
“Ombudsman, maging patas ka po. Ipakita mo ang tamang hustisya (Ombudsman, be fair, show the right justice),” Nacino said.
The VACC renewed calls for Morales, who is due to retire next year, to resign.
Aquino was also set to file his own appeal on Wednesday, the last day.
In an interview with Rappler on Tuesday, Aquino said he will clarify what transpired in the events that led to the Mamasapano operations which will sufficiently address the graft and usurpation charges.
The former president explained that when they answered to the complaint in January, they only addressed the reckless imprudence resulting in homicide. (READ: Aquino pins down Napeñas in Mamasapano affidavit)
“Here, we were never asked to refute anything because we were never asked to comment on this thing. So they were explaining, that’s the prerogative of the Ombudsman. It’s the power even of other fiscals to determine the crime to be charged if they feel there’s a crime to be charged,” Aquino said.
Aquino added: “If we were given a chance to file a response to any of this, then we believe they would have been clarified of what transpired and then there would have been no charges.” – Rappler.com