Ombudsman: Mamasapano graft charges should have been filed June 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Wednesday, January 25, admitted that the filing of criminal charges related to the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 elite cops was delayed by 7 months.

January 25 marked the second anniversary of the deadly clash that left an ugly mark on the Aquino administration, until recently openly criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte for covering up details about operations.

Morales said the filing of usurpation of public function and graft charges against dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima and dismissed Special Action Force (SAF) Commander Getulio Napeñas Jr should have been done June 2016 when they denied the two police officers' motions for reconsideration.

"I issued a show-cause order to the former chief records officer of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) when she did not file the information contrary to the standing order of the Ombudsman," Morales said in an interview with reporters at the Marriott Hotel in Manila where she was a resource person for the Asia Women's Summit.

Several families of the SAF 44, accompanied by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Citizens' Crime Watch (CCW) and Bayan, staged a protest in front of the Office of the Ombudsman Wednesday morning and called for more charges, not only against Purisima and Napeñas, but also against former president Benigno Aquino III.

VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez said they want the Ombudsman to act on the complaint of 44 counts of multiple homicide they filed against Purisima, Napeñas, and Aquino, even accusing the Ombudsman of delaying tactics.

"Ang ipinaparating po namin sa kanila, bilis-bilisan niyo, dahil otherwise, yung sinabi ni Atty (Ferdinand) Topacio, yung flow, na medyo nandyan po ang delaying tactics. Remember we are charging Aquino, our former president, mayaman, makapangyarihan, maimpluwensiyang tao, hindi biro-biro ang magpa-convict ng dating presidente," Jimenez said.

(What we want to relay to them is to act faster because otherwise, as Atty [Ferdinand] Topacio said, we see a flow of a delaying tactic from them. Remember we are charging Aquino, our former president, a rich, powerful and influential person. It's not easy to get a former president convicted.)

Morales said cases against Aquino are still undergoing preliminary investigation, adding that Aquino has asked for an extension to file his counter-affidavit. The Ombudsman had earlier promised that complaints against Aquino would be resolved before her term ends in 2018.

A special panel of prosecutors had earlier cleared Aquino of criminal liability.

"Parang pagpapakita ito ng consuelo de bobo, it's like throwing a bone, parang ang taong bayan ang mga aso, hagisan mo ng tira-tira at baka sakaling tumigil sa pagtahol. Walang kuwenta ang binigay sa amin na buto," said Topacio, legal counsel for the VACC.

(This is just consuelo de bobo [pallliative]it's like throwing a bone, as if the Filipino people were dogs who would stop barking if you threw leftovers their way. The bone they gave us was no good.)

Jimenez added that if the Ombudsman does not expedite the resolution of homicide cases, they may just file an impeachment complaint against her.

"Ayusin niyo, kung maaari in less than a year bago pa maglabas ng resulta ang truth commission," Jimenez said, referring to the commission created by Duterte to reinvestigate the Mamasapano clash. The commission, Duterte said, will consist of former Supreme Court justices and individuals from the civilian sector. (Fix it, if possible in less than a year befpre the truth commission releases its results.)

Morales said she was not offended that Duterte wanted to make a parallel investigation.

"That is his say, he is the President. There is nothing that should prevent him from deciding if he should have a committee or commission to investigate the Mamasapano incident. There are so many complaints. I am not offended. I stick and stand by my record. Whatever people say, I say look at our records at the Office of the Ombudsman," Morales said.

Exhausted by the day's events, marching from a press conference at a nearby restaurant to the Office of the Ombudsman on Agham Road in Quezon City, Telly Sombilla, mother of a slain SAF cop, hid from the protest program to get her bearings at the parking lot.

A teary-eyed Sombilla told Rappler she has a message for the Ombudsman: "Maawa naman po kayo, hindi kami palaging magpupunta dito sa lungsod, wala kaming sapat na pera na magagamit namin sa paggastos. Sana meron ka namang habag sa aming mahihirap lamang, umusad na sana ang kaso." 

(Have mercy on us, we can't always go to Manila, we don't have enough money to pay for the expenses, please have mercy on us poor people and let the cases proceed.)

Sombilla came from Samar to attend the dialogue with Duterte at the Malacañang Palace on Tuesday, January 24.

"Kung maaari lamang (na makasuhan din yung) nag-utos sa kanila na pumunta doon, na nag-abandona, na hindi na sila tinulungan, alam naman ng mga tao kung sino 'yan," Sombilla told Rappler. (We hope to see charges filed against the person who gave the orders to go there, who abandoned them, the one who did not help them, the people know who that is.)

She added that the death of her son and 43 other slain cops are worse than extrajudicial killings (EJKs).

“Yung anak ko po, binaril na nga, pinaglaruan pa ang katawan, tinanggalan ng mata, pinutulan ng braso, tinaga pa ang likod, nasaan po dito ang human rights? Mas masahol po itong kamatayan ng SAF 44 kaysa sa EJK. Nasaan po sila? Hanggang ngayon wala pong napapanagot. Hanggang ngayon pinagtatawanan lang kami, wala pang napaparusahan," Sombilla said. 

(My son was not only shot, but his body was played with, they took out his eye, cut his arm, and hacked him in the back. Where is human rights here? The deaths of SAF 44 is worse than EJK. Where are they? No one has been convicted yet. Until now they are just laughing at us, no one has been punished for their crimes.)

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 or tweet @lianbuan.