Aquino's appeal at Ombudsman: A defense of Purisima

APPEAL AT OMBUDSMAN. Former president Benigno u0022Noynoyu0022 Aquino tries to clarify the text messages sent among him, Alan Purisima and Getulio Napeu00c3u00b1as in a bid to have charges dismissed over the Mamasapano operations.

APPEAL AT OMBUDSMAN. Former president Benigno u0022Noynoyu0022 Aquino tries to clarify the text messages sent among him, Alan Purisima and Getulio Napeu00c3u00b1as in a bid to have charges dismissed over the Mamasapano operations.

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has filed his motion for reconsideration before Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales seeking the dismissal of charges against him in connection to the botched Mamasapano operations.

In defending himself, Aquino again defends former police chief Alan Purisima. 

Aquino's indictment for graft and usurpation of authority was based on his failure to keep Purisima from participating in a police operation while he was serving a suspension order.

Essentially, Aquino is saying that he could not be liable for allowing Purisima to commit a crime because Purisima did not commit a crime.

Text messages

Aquino said Purisima was a mere resource person, and did not play a key role in the operations. Aquino said that as the Commander-In-Chief, he had every right to consult anyone he thought would be helpful. Purisima had previously dealt with terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman, the targets of the operations, so his knowledge was necessary, according to Aquino. 

Morales' indictment, however, dismisses the claim that Aquino only used Purisima as  a resource person.

There are 3 sets of text exchanges crucial in the indictment.

The first was a text message sent by Purisima to Aquino on January 13, 2015, which contains a forwarded message from former Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas Jr.

Purisima was relaying to Aquino Napeñas' recommended course of action. Aquino replied, "ok."

The text exchange between Purisima and Aquino on January 13, 2015. Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

The text exchange between Purisima and Aquino on January 13, 2015.

Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

Aquino said his "ok" is not equivalent to authorizing Purisima to meddle in the implementation of Oplan Exodus. Purisima's act of forwarding the message is also not sufficient proof that the former police chief meddled, Aquino said. (READ: FULL TEXT: 'Binola ako ni Napeñas – Aquino)

"It cannot be said or reasonably concluded that this act of forwarding to me the message of Napeñas already constituted a usurpation by Purisima of official functions," Aquino said in his appeal.

January 25 texts

The second set of crucial text exchanges happened on January 25, 2015, the day of the operation, when Purisima provided Aquino updates from the ground.

The text exchanges show Aquino asking Purisima crucial questions about the ongoing operation and at one point even telling the suspended police chief: "Basit (Usman) should not get away."

"The foregoing record of SMS exchanges does not jibe with President Aquino's asseveration that he merely utilized Purisima as a resource person providing vital information," Morales said.

But for Aquino, he asked these questions only because of the urgency of the situation.

The text messages between Purisima and Aquino on January 25, 2015. Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

The text messages between Purisima and Aquino on January 25, 2015.

Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

"As I did not receive any other updates at that time and due to the urgency of the matter, I did not hesitate from immediately asking clarificatory questions and stressing the ultimate objective of the operation, which is that the HVT (high-value target) must not escape. These questions were asked with the understanding that the necessary officers were aware of the operations and were similarly on top of the situation," Aquino said in his appeal.

Aquino said he was only a "passive receiver of updates." But what about Purisima, what does his texts on January 25 say about his liability?

"It bears stressing that I have never given any instructions to any of the relevant officials, including the heads of agencies, that all communications be exclusively coursed through Purisima," Aquino said.

The former president added: "Neither did I give any specific instructions to Napeñas that he directly report to Purisima. Whatever reporting he did, if he did report to Purisima, was his judgment call and was clearly made of his own volition – and not because I ordered him to do so." (READ: Aquino pins down Napeñas in Mamasapano affidavit)

Slight jibe at Purisima

Aquino still largely defends Purisima, his friend, in his appeal. By the end of his motion, he said: "To reiterate, Purisima's involvement as a mere resource person and his act of forwarding to me the messages of Napeñas cannot be construed as discharging official functions and thereby violating the order of preventive suspension."

Purisima had been charged before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan of one count each of graft and usurpation of public functions over the same offense. Napeñas faces the same charges for allowing Purisima to commit the alleged offense. Aquino, in his indictment, is named as co-conspirator of the two.

This conspiracy allegation somehow forces Aquino to tone down his defense of Purisima at one point. (READ: Inside Mamasapano: When the bullets ran out)

This is the third crucial set of text exchanges. Morales' resolution cites the exchange between Purisima and Napeñas, with the latter asking the former if he can "report regarding operations on high-value target."

Some of the text messages sent back and forth between Purisima and Napeu00c3u00b1as about Oplan Exodus. Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

Some of the text messages sent back and forth between Purisima and Napeu00c3u00b1as about Oplan Exodus.

Screenshot from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' resolution

Aquino distances himself from the two in this aspect.

"It should be noted however that I was clearly not a party nor was I privy to the contents of these exchanges. Thus, these messages are clearly irrelevant to any discussion as regards my purported liability and cannot and should not be used against me as evidence to support the erroneous conclusion that I conspired with the said respondents to commit the crimes charged," Aquino said.

Aquino also said in his appeal that just as he told Napeñas to loop in the military in the planning, he also told Purisima to brief the officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at the time – Director General Leonardo Espina.

"It bears stressing that I was not aware that my instructions and directives were disregarded by respondents Purisima and Napeñas," Aquino said.

Napeñas would later tell a Senate inquiry that Purisima had told him not to inform other security officials of the operations.

“Huwag mo munang sabihan 'yung dalawa, saka na 'pag nandoon na. Ako na bahala kay General Catapang,” Napeñas quoted Purisima as saying at a Senate inquiry in February 2015, referring to then Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

(Don't inform the two yet, just tell them when the troops are in the area. I'll tell General Catapang myself.)

Aquino had earlier said he is confident that once he is able to clarify these things to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, he will also be cleared of graft and usurpation.

Aquino claimed his indictment was a result of his not being able to address these charges because he was focused on defending himself from the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, which he was cleared of.

In his motion for reconsideration, Aquino claimed he was denied due process as he was indicted of charges he was not given a chance to counter. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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