Aquino: I have accepted Purisima's resignation

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, February 6, announced that he has made the "painful" decision to accept the resignation of suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima.

After narrating the basis of his long-standing friendship with Purisima, Aquino said in Filipino: "For this reason, perhaps you will understand why I find it painful to see him leave the service under these circumstances. I have accepted, effective immediately, the resignation of General Purisima. I thank him for his many years of service prior to this tragedy."

The President did not announce Purisima's replacement, or why Purisima resigned. Relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas has said, however, that it was Purisima who was on top of the Mamasapano operation that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.

On Thursday, February 5, Rappler reported that Aquino told close Cabinet members that he had accepted Purisima's resignation. (READ: Aquino, Purisima and the past that binds them)

The President made the formal public announcement in his second national address since the bloody clash between members of the Philippine National Police SAF and rebel forces in Maguindanao that claimed the lives of 44 elite cops on January 25.

Aquino's national address comes as morale among the police ranks is low, weighed down by the death of their comrades, and the alleged lack of empathy of the Chief Executive toward the families of the slain SAF troopers.

The President said it is important to boost the morale of the PNP, adding that while there are those who would like to create a fissure in the relationship between the SAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, "we will make sure they do not succeed."

Napeñas should have known better

On January 25, some 392 SAF commandos entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to serve arrest warrants to top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan,” and Abdul Basit Usman.

The MILF blames the failure of the PNP-SAF team to coordinate with them, as provided by its agreement with the government on operations in known MILF territories.

The incident occurred less than a year after the group signed a landmark peace deal with the Philippine government, and as lawmakers deliberate on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which seeks to create an autonomous region initially headed by the MILF. 

In his address, the President called out Napeñas for the botched operation that cost the lives of so many of his men.

He said that Napeñas, as SAF commander, should have had "situational awareness" and should have fully known the attendant dangers of the operation.

Aquino said that based on his initial investigation, there were "no fewer than 3 separate instances when the mission could have been aborted or postponed, or when the plan could have been dramatically changed."

"As commander, he had full knowledge of the entire plan, together with the dangers that came with it; he would be the first to know if the plan was being executed correctly. He should have known what was happening at every moment," he said.

He raised questions on the operation and Napeñas' decisions.

"How and why did it happen that there was no coordination? Why did the mission continue, when it had deviated so far from the original plan, and our troops were already in grave danger?," he said.

"These, and many others, are the questions that plague my mind. The former SAF Commander will have an opportunity to answer these, and explain himself, in the appropriate proceedings."

Legal issue

Under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019, a person with a pending corruption case – like Purisima – cannot resign until the resolution of his case, and must be "relieved."

Sources from the Office of the Ombudsman told Rappler, however, that if Purisima would resign, his pending administrative and criminal cases will continue.

Purisima was suspended on December 4, 2014, over graft charges. 

In his first national address on the incident on January 28, the President had said that he was in touch with Purisima regarding the operation, but only for help to "understand the jargon." 

That day, Aquino denied that Purisima was in charge of the operation, only saying he was in control until he was suspended.

The President has close ties to Purisima, whom he appointed as PNP chief in 2012. Aquino has been accused of protecting Purisima who also served in the Presidential Security Group under the late president Corazon Aquino, mother of the President.

As a PSG member then, Purisima was assigned specifically to guard the young Aquino, and was with him when rebel soldiers attempted to assassinate the then presidential son. – Rappler.com