“The President recognizes the heroic sacrifice of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force 44, and it is his — and the nation’s — hope to finally bring justice to the victims and families of the Fallen 44 and put closure to the issue as part of the healing process,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella added that the Palace “respects the Ombudsman’s constitutional mandate to investigate public officials.”
The Palace official made the statements after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of criminal charges against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the January 2015 tragedy.
Aquino was criminally charged for Usurpation of Authority (Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code) and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019).
Standing as his co-conspirators, are former Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima and Director Getulio Napeñas of the SAF.
On Jan. 24, 2015, almost 400 highly-trained SAF commandos launched Oplan Exodus to serve standing warrants of arrest against internationally-wanted terrorists Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Ahmad Akmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
In the ensuing firefight that lasted for several hours, 44 SAF troopers died in the line of duty.
In the aftermath, Aquino was widely criticized for allowing suspended PNP chief Purisima not only to participate in the planning, but also in the running of said operation; and for breaking the chain of command among others.
In the investigation, Morales noted that President Aquino was fully aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had placed Purisima under preventive suspension during the planning and actual conduct of the operation.
“The fact remains that, at the time, particularly before and during the actual implementation of Oplan Exodus, Purisima was under preventive suspension, and that Purisima, despite being under preventive suspension, indeed played an active role in Oplan Exodus… to the point that he was exercising a degree of authority and discretion over Napeñas and consequently, over the operation,” reads the consolidated resolution.
“… In other words, Purisima would not have been placed in such a position of continuing to conduct himself, in relation to Oplan Exodus, in a manner as if he was not under preventive suspension at that time, from his position as PNP chief, were it not for the complicity and influence of President Aquino,” the complaint read. (Cielito M. Reganit/PNA)