Sandigan’s Tang: Court will ‘dispense justice without fear or favor’

Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, head of the Sandiganbayan division that would handle the case of ex-President Benigno Aquino III, has assured that the court will “dispense justice without fear or favor” despite her being an appointee of the former Chief Executive.

“Lahat naman kami dito naging appointee ng different presidents but more than just gratefulness to those who appointed us, we have a sworn duty and that should be the foremost consideration—to render justice, as justice should be dispensed without fear or favor,” Tang told reporters.

READ: Ex-President Aquino’s appointee in Sandigan to preside case vs him

The former Chief Executive’s graft and usurpation of authority cases over the 2015 Mamasapano incident was raffled to the Third Division, which is presided by Tang. Both cases are bailable.

Aside from Tang, the members of the Sandganbayan Third Division are Associate Justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Bernelito Fernandez.

Fernandez is also an Aquino appointee while Fernandez is President Rodrigo Duterte’s first appointee at the graft court.

After the cases were raffled, Tang explained that the court should first determine the probable cause before deciding whether it would order the arrest of Aquino and the other respondents.

She said that the respondents can post bail “provided that the cases are bailable in nature.”

Last Wednesday, the Office of Ombudsman has filed graft and usurpation of authority charges against Aquino before the Sandiganbayan for the bungled operation of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) at Tuknalipao, Mamasapano in Maguindanao last January 25, 2015.

Specifically, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, an Aquino appointee, charged the former Chief Executive with violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3109 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the provision on the usurpation of official functions.

The anti-graft body set the bail to P40,000 – P30,000 for the graft charge and P10,000 for the usurpation of authority charge.

Aquino was accused of conspiring with suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, who was then under preventive suspension, and PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas in implementing Oplan Exodus, which targeted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

The covert operation led to the death of 44 PNP-SAF commandos, who would later be remembered as SAF 44.

According to the charge sheet, Aquino “did there and then willfully, unlawfully cause Purisima to perform and/or exercise the function of the chief of the PNP over Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation […] despite having knowledge that Purisima was under preventive suspension.”             /kga

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