By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Admitting that he fears going to jail like his party mate and close political ally Sen. Leila de Lima, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said on July 17 he would file a motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s decision indicting him for alleged graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano massacre.
This is the first time Aquino faced the possibility of standing trial in court and even possibly going to jail since turning over power to President Duterte last year, although he had received flak under the new administration for his supposed mis-handling of the Mamasapano operation as well as the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Aquino told reporters that he would file a motion for reconsideration of the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision issued last week indicting him for usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“I’d be lying if you’d say (I have no fears). I always adopt the attitude of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. That is a healthy attitude. My sisters, actually they came here Friday night. Before I got the chance to talk to my lawyers, they were asking all about these things because they are concerned, and I’m also concerned. But I told them, if there is room for the truth to come out, then we’re OK,” Aquino said.
The former president admitted that it would be a difficult process for him and his family, especially since this was the first time he was getting charged. Also, the detention of De Lima somehow brought on the feeling of fear, although De Lima faces different charges on alleged links to the illegal drug trade.
Aquino said his prayer is for guidance to do the right thing at the right time. “Siguro in a sense, I think it proves my point, when you have to make a decision, you will probably not please everybody. One would hope the decision is based on firm facts and legal principles rather than the need to satisfy the public,” he added.
At Malacanang, President Duterte dismissed Aquino’s indictment as “silly” when asked to comment on it. Duterte said charges to be filed against Aquino over the Mamasapano clash are doomed to fail since, as then commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Aquino could order anyone to help in a security or law enforcement operation.
Ordered charged along with Aquino were co-accused former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. Aquino pointed out that during a discussion with his lawyers after the Ombudsman’s ruling came out on Friday, it was made clear that he was charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide but this was dismissed for lack of probable cause.
The former president maintained that Purisima – suspended at the time the operation against two international terrorists was conducted in Mamasapano – was considered a “subject matter expert” and a good adviser, citing his background such as being part of the Special Action Force. Exactly 44 members of the SAF were killed during the operation.
Aquino said he consulted Purisima on police matters as they had known each other for a long time and had built a certain level of trust. He stressed Purisima would not just give him a usual report but a personal assessment of things he would be asking for.
The former president would not say if the Senate, which investigated the incident, was fair to him but he reiterated he was never given the chance to explain his side, even before the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police.
The Ombudsman found Aquino liable to usurpation of authority for allowing Purisima to play a “major role” in Oplan Exodus, the SAF operation aimed to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.