Graft or homicide? SC stops Aquino’s Mamasapano case at Sandiganbayan
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) First Division has halted the proceedings at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan where former president Benigno Aquino III was supposed to be arraigned next week for charges of graft and usurpation of authority related to the botched Mamasapano operations of 2015.
The division issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 7, which enjoins the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with Aquino’s arraignment, earlier scheduled for February 15. The order was released to the media on Friday, February 9.
Relatives of some Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who died had filed a petition with the High Court, asking that Aquino be charged with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, instead of graft and usurpation of authority.
Solicitor General Jose Calida backed that petition through a manifestation submitted to the SC.
SC’s 1st division, chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, also enjoined the Office of the Ombudsman from implementing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ resolution that indicted Aquino of graft and usurpation.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), lawyers of SAF kin, said the graft and usurpation charges were "designed to fail" to let Aquino go scot-free.
Graft carries a maximum prison time of 15 years, while reckless imprudence resulting in homicide carries 4 years. Forty-four counts, representing the 44 SAF commandos killed, would result to 176 years of imprisonment if Aquino is found guilty for each count.
The TRO also covers former police chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr.
Before this TRO, Aquino had filed a motion to quash before the Sandiganbayan, which he had hoped would dismiss the cases. The TRO from the SC prevents the anti-graft court from resolving the motion. – Rappler.com