Criminal raps filed vs Purisima, Napeñas over Mamasapano

MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of the 2nd commemoration of the Mamasapano tragedy, the Ombudsman filed with the Sandiganbayan criminal charges against former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and ex-Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas over the botched operation.

If found guilty, the two retired police generals face a jail term of 12 years each.

The Mamasapano incident, which killed 44 elite cops and 23 civilians in a dawn raid of a Muslim rebel stronghold in January 2015 in Central Mindanao, was the worst crisis to hit the previous Aquino administration. (READ: Timeline: Mamasapano clash)

Purisima, who was serving a preventive suspension at the time, had ordered the operation with the approval of then president Benigno Aquino III. Napeñas was the ground commander of the SAF forces who conducted the raid that was meant to neutralize top terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.

In a statement, the Ombudsman said Purisima had no authority to issue such orders because he had been suspended by the Ombudsman at that point over a corruption complaint. It was general Leonardo Espina who was OIC PNP chief at the time and had authority over the operation, the Ombudsman stressed.

Napeñas was indicted for “allowing himself to be persuaded, induced or influenced to violate the chain of command, for ignoring the Ombudsman’s suspension against Purisima, and defying Espina’s cease and desist order."

Delayed filing?

Page 3 of both criminal information showed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the cases for filing in court as early as May 31, 2016 after assistant special prosecutor Reza M. Casila-Derayunan submitted them on May 19, 2016.

Why the cases were filed nearly 8 months after the Ombudsman’s approval was not explained.

Bail bonds for the accused were set at P30,000 for the graft case and P10,000 for the usurpation charge although the amount was erroneously written down as P10,000 in the information for the graft indictment.

SAF troopers managed to kill Marwan, the primary target of Oplan Exodus.

The withdrawing SAF forces were caught and killed by various responding rebel forces in the area during a botched extraction that lasted many hours.

Prosecutors listed Superintendent Hendrix Mangaldan, commander of the 4th SAF Battalion that was involved in the firefight, was listed as a principal witness against Purisima and Napeñas together with the Ombudsman investigators that helped build the case.

Aquino, who admitted meeting both Purisima and Napeñas to discuss the plan to capture or neutralize the two targets, was not included in either case. He is facing a separate complaint still pending investigation with the Ombudsman. (READ: Aquino broke chain of command in Mamasapano– Rappler.com