MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) denied on Tuesday, September 3, a petition that sought to charge former president Benigno Aquino III of 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over the Mamasapano bloodbath in 2015.
With this ruling, Aquino is now cleared of all Mamasapano related-charges. (READ: Mamasapano clash: What did Aquino know?)
What did the SC decide? The SC dismissed the petition of the families of the Special Action Force (SAF) cops killed in the ill-fated mission who complained that former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales committed grave abuse of discretion when she dropped the homicide complaints against Aquino.
The petition was backed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Morales instead charged Aquino of graft and usurpation of authority for allowing the participation of sacked police chief Alan Purisima in the operation even though Purisima was already suspended at the time.
“The Court held that the Ombudsman did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing the complaints for 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide filed against private respondents,” said SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka in a news conference on Tuesday, September 3.
What happened to the graft and usurpation charges? Morales’ successor, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, withdrew the graft and usurpation charges against Aquino because to his view, “no president can be charged of usurpation.”
Acting on the withdrawal, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan formally dropped the charges on August 22.
Can new cases be filed? “The criminal cases filed against Benigno Simeon Aquino III are dismissed without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate charges against him,” said the 4th Division in its decision on August 22.
Even Martires’ motion to withdraw said it was without prejudice to the filing of new complaints.
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who is representing the SAF kin, has already said they would refile a homicide complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“At that level, which is preliminary investigation, there is no double jeopardy, there is no res judicata, nothing will prevent the Ombudsman, upon the behest of any interested party to file or refile a case with new evidence,” said Topacio.
The Supreme Court, in its decision, said it was affirming Morales’ decision “insofar as they found no probable cause to charge private respondents Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, Alan Purisima, and Getulio Napeñas with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.”
Asked about the possibility of re-filing, Hosaka said: “Not for the Supreme Court to comment on that right now. Whatever case filed, it would be up to the lawyers, probably the parties.” – Rappler.com