Duterte says charges vs Aquino on Mamasapano massacre to fail
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday criminal charges to be filed against former President Benigno Aquino III in relation to the botched anti-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015 would fail.
In an interview in Malacanang, Duterte said Aquino could not be held liable for usurpation of authority and violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, in an order to file criminal charges against Aquino, cited that the former President should not have allowed former Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima, who was then suspended, to play a major role in "Oplan Exodus," an operation against internationally-wanted terrorists, Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Ahmad Akmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Duterte said Aquino could call anybody to help him fight a criminal operation.
"He was not using an administrative talent - in appointments, in signing...he was just asking for the advice from a professional police. I do not see anything wrong there. Nothing was signed," he said.
He said Aquino just consulted Purisima.
"That's why the charge against Aquino will fail...all the powers there and all of the offices there participated and merged into one person and that is the President. The President is the sole organ of the presidency," explained Duterte, who is a lawyer by profession.
He noted that Aquino was not a military man and if he asked Purisima, it was because he trusted him.
Duterte said the anti-terrorism operation, which resulted in the death of the 44 police commandos, was "neither a misadventure but I would say that Murphy's Law.
"It was a success in the sense that they were able to secure the fingers at the cost of 44 lives," he said. The members of the Special Action Force who were involved in the anti-terrorism operation was able to kill Marwan and as proof, they cut one of his fingers and turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing. The FBI later confirmed that it was Marwan who was killed in the operation.
Asked what should be the case to be filed against Aquino, Duterte said, "none. It's really a failure."
But he said there could be shortcomings on the part of Aquino.
"There was no assistance, reinforcements, the military air assets, the cannons there, it could have reached (the place)," he said.
Duterte, however, added that if air assets and other reinforcements were sent, many people, such as children and women, could have also died.
While there could be no criminal charges that could be filed against Aquino and his other co-conspirators, such as Purisima and former SAF chief Getulio Napenas Jr, damages could be sought, he said. Celerina Monte/DMS