Widows of SAF commandos say Aquino should be jailed

LONG WAY TO GO Dr. Christine Cempron, widow of PO1 Romeo Cempron, says the quest for justice still has a long way to go. —TONEE DESPOJO/CEBU DAILY NEWS

AURORA, Isabela — The widow of a policeman from Isabela province who was killed in a botched counterterrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015, blamed former President Benigno Aquino III for the fiasco and said he should be jailed.

“He is the primary official responsible for the death of our loved ones,” said Melanie Duque, wife of PO3 Andres Duque Jr., one of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos killed by Moro rebels in the course of arresting two suspected terrorists in Mamasapano.

She agreed to an interview on Saturday after learning that the Office of the Ombudsman had indicted Aquino for usurpation of authority and violation of the antigraft law in connection with the operation.

Charged with Aquino were former Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima and the SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas Jr.

“We hope that the case will be sped up to help us get justice,” Duque said, adding that she was glad the issue had been revived after more than two years.

Her husband, a 37-year-old criminology graduate of the University of La Salette in 2006, served in the SAF for eight years. He left behind three children aged 16, 15, and 3.

“I have been crying. [With the latest development], I believe that PO3 Duque is rejoicing,” she said.

The widow said promises made to her by the Aquino administration were not all fulfilled.

Of the P300,000 in social welfare assistance to which her family was entitled, they got only P201,000, she said, adding that the money was meant for the construction of a new house.

Merlyn Gamutan, widow of Senior Insp. Joey Gamutan, said she hoped the case against Aquino and his top police officials would be pursued until he was jailed.

“Our husbands would still be alive if not for their negligence,” she added.

The widows of two other SAF officers have likewise welcomed the filing of criminal charges against Aquino.

“I am happy with this development. [I] hope this will be the first step for us to achieve the justice we have been seeking all this time,” said Kristine Clemencio, widow of PO1 Mark Lory Clemencio of Carigara town in Leyte.

Clemencio admitted that she remained apprehensive that the case against Aquino might not prosper since the former President remained influential.

“I am only pinning my hope on President Duterte who personally gave his assurance to us that justice would be served to us and our loved ones,” Clemencio said.

Dr. Christine Cempron, 36, the widow of PO1 Romeo Cempron, said she would be happy if Aquino and Purisima would be jailed now.

“Among them, President Aquino and Purisima have the hardest hearts, as if they have not committed any lapses, as if nothing happened,” she added.

But Cempron said the search for justice still had a long way to go.

“There will be much to overcome, but no matter how uphill the journey will be, we will endure it to secure justice for the SAF 44,” she said.

“I don’t care if it will take a long time. At least, the case is moving,” she added. —With reports from Julie Alipala, Joey A. Gabieta, and Ador Vincent Mayol

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