Coordination with Purisima in Mamasapano raid not unlawful, says Aquino camp

Former President Benigno Aquino III

Former President Benigno Aquino III INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / LYN RILLON

Former President Benigno Aquino III has asked the Sandiganbayan to invalidate the information for the case of graft and usurpation of official function which were filed against him in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident that led to the death of 60 Filipinos, including 44 elite police commandos.

The pending decision on Aquino camp’s motion to quash information had caused the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to delay his arraignment supposedly held on Friday. The arraignment has been moved to Feb. 15.

Aquino’s lawyers argued that the allegations cited in the Ombudsman complaint against the former Chief Executive do not constitute any offense.

“Kahit ma-prove ang allegations sa information (even the allegations are proven in the information), it will not be sufficient to convict (Aquino). It doesn’t constitute an offense,” lawyer Romeo Fernandez, Aquino’s counsel, told reporters at the Sandiganbayan.

In the 39-page motion, Aquino said that the complaint failed to state what “pretenses, devices, fraud or deception were employed by (him) in ‘causing’ Mr. [Alan] Purisima to act as PNP chief during the planning and implementation of Oplan Exodus.”

Purisima was formerly the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, whom Aquino consulted about the Oplan Exodus, the high-risk operation carried out by Special Action Force (SAF) troopers to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir or Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.

The Ombudsman complaint issued last November said that Aquino “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.”

The complaint also stemmed from Aquino’s act of allowing Purisima to take part in Oplan Exodus by letting him go to the Jan. 9, 2015 meeting in Bahay Pangarap despite the latter’s suspension.

But the defense of the lawyers was that Aquino allowing Purisima to join the meeting “was not, by itself, a pretense or a false misrepresentation as Purisima was lawfully entitled to act as PNP chief at that time.”

“As former Chief Executive, Mr. Aquino exercised control and supervision over the PNP, such that he could require or allow any police officer to attend, and even exclude any such officer from the Jan 9, 2015 meeting which he himself presided over,” his lawyers wrote.

“Neither can the alleged act of “giving instructions” to coordinate with the AFP be deemed as a “pretense.” Being the President, Commander-in Chief, and leader of the country’s police forces, Mr. Aquino can give instructions to any soldier or police officer to coordinate with the AFP, and ensure that such instructions are carried out,” they added.

The lawyers also argued that Aquino’s alleged act of “communicating exclusively” with Purisima on the day of the raid as to the progress of Oplan Exodus through text messages was also “not a deceitful pretense.”

“Besides, ‘receiving updates’ from the then preventively-suspended Mr. Purisima is not prohibited by law,” they reiterated.  /jpv

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