Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has granted the Ombudsman’s motion to withdraw the criminal charges against former President Benigno Aquino III over the bloody Mamasamapano encounter.
This was confirmed by Alex Quiroz, chairperson of the Sandiganbayan Foruth Division, Thursday.
Aquino was accused of graft and usurpation or unlawful use of authority, but Ombudsman Samuel Martires in June dropped the charges against him for lack of evidence. The Sandiganbayan acted on the matter following the Supreme Court’s lifting of the temporary restraining order on the Mamasapano trial this month.
Aquino may be off the hook for now, but Solicitor General Jose Calida has urged the Supreme Court to order the filing of multiple homicide charges against Aquino and two former police officials – former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima and PNP-Special Action Forces Commander Getulio Napeñas Jr. – for their involvement in the botched Mamasapano operation in January 2015. Fourty-four members of the SAF, known as the SAF 44, were killed in a clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.
The Office of the Ombudsman, under then chief graft buster Conchita Carpio Morales, in 2017 dismissed the complaint against Aquino for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides. What she filed were the graft and usurpation of authority charges, saying what the former President did wrong was to allow Purisima to play a major role in the Mamasapano operation despite being under preventive suspension.
Martires said he has no plans of filing fresh complaints, even as Calida wants Aquino charged with homicide. But if the Ombudsman won’t do it, the group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said they will file a homicide case against Aquino.
Aquino had denied the allegations against him and called on the Sandiganbayan to dismiss his case.