Aquino surprised Duterte defended him over indictment

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday, July 18, that he was surprised President Rodrigo Duterte defended him over his indictment for the botched Mamasapano operation in January 2015.

Duterte had said the graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino are "silly" and bound to fail because Aquino had the prerogative to consult with anyone back then.

"I was expecting, at the most, he would probably be quiet. Because earlier that day and if I remember correctly, previously, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel [Salvador Panelo] said the charge was correct, etc. Secretary Aguirre also said the same thing. And his alter egos suddenly had their principal saying something different," Aquino told Rappler's Maria Ressa in an exclusive interview.

The former president also said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II should "keep quiet" about the Mamasapano case because he used to be the lawyer of dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas.

"You (Aguirre) are in a position where you can influence so many different offices. And being the lawyer before [of Napeñas], now you are in a different role, ethically you should keep quiet which he said he will, and now he commented again on this," Aquino said.

Aguirre had told the Philippine Star on Monday, July 17, that the indictment of the former president was "a welcome development." (READ: Aguirre: Commission should probe Aquino liability in Mamasapano)

"The factual bases of the resolution are by and large accurate," the justice chief had said.

'Surprised' by graft indictment

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales issued a resolution last week that found basis to indict Aquino for graft and usurpation of authority. The indictment is grounded on Aquino allowing then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to participate in the planning of the Mamasapano operation, dubbed Oplan Exodus.

Oplan Exodus sought to neutralize terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. While Marwan was killed during the operation, and months later Usman, missteps led to the deaths of 44 elite cops and 23 civilians. (READ: President Aquino and the ghosts of Mamasapano)

Aquino on Tuesday said he was surprised by the indictment because graft and usurpation of authority weren't included in the complaint he responded to last January. That complaint, filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), sought to charge him with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

"Here, we were never asked to refute anything because we were never asked to comment on this thing. So they were explaining, that's the prerogative of the Ombudsman. It's the power even of other fiscals to determine the crime to be charged if they feel there's a crime to be charged," Aquino said.

Downgrade?

Aquino said he will file a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman on Wednesday, July 19.

The former president's spokesperson Abigail Valte had earlier said there was a "misappreciation of facts" which their appeal would seek to address. (READ: Liberal Party: Aquino actions in Mamasapano 'in good faith')

On Tuesday, Aquino said: "If we were given a chance to file a response to any of this, then we believe they would have been clarified of what transpired and then there would have been no charges."

Meanwhile, the VACC's lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told Rappler that the group will also file its own appeal, since it considers the Ombudsman's resolution a downgrade.

The penalty for graft is 6 to 15 years in prison, while it is 6 months to 4 years for usurpation of authority. In contrast, if Aquino were to be charged and convicted of 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, it would mean jail time of 176 years, or 4 years per count. – 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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