SAF44 families mull class action suit vs Aquino

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2016 06:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 05 2016 01:49 PM

A class action suit may be filed against former President Benigno Aquino III if more families of the slain Special Action Force (SAF) troopers come forward, a lawyer said.

Speaking on ANC's Headstart Monday, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, one of the lawyers who drafted the complaint against Aquino, said more family members of the slain commandos are mulling to file law suits and if they do come out, they will file a class action suit against Aquino.

"Some 12 of other family members have also reached out to us, and depending on how many would eventually decide to file, then we will consider a class action suit," he said on Monday.

Relatives of two slain SAF commandos and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino, former Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima, and former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas on Friday, a day after Aquino stepped down from office.

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Over 60 people died, including 44 SAF troopers, in the PNP operation to arrest top international terrorists Marwan and Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao January 25 last year.

Erlina Aliaga, mother of PO3 Robert Dommolog Aliaga, and Warlito Mejia, father of PO2 Ephraim Mejia, were the two complainants in the case filed on Friday.

Although Topacio said there's a "very good chance" of more families coming forward to file charges against Aquino, he said there may be some logistical concerns, especially since most slain victims come from lower-ranking members and reside in the Ifugao provinces, "so just the cost of transporting themselves to Manila is a big hurdle for them."

He added there may also be some logistical concerns in getting the families together and agreeing because some are dispersed across the country as well.

Topacio also believes fear may be part of the reason some families would not come forward and file charges against Aquino.

"That is not helped by the fact that the former president has threatened to file suit against those who are filing suit against," he said.

"This of course sends a chilling effect to the others who might be inclined to follow our course of action and go to the Ombudsman," he added.

But he maintained, he and the rest of VACC are not actively campaigning to encourage these families to come forward, but they will assist these families if they decide to press charges.

RECKLESS IMPRUDENCE

Meanwhile, Topacio also clarified that their case is "a different matter" from another case filed against Aquino last year.

"That was for probable graft or administrative charges. This is for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide. This is a totally different case," he said, highlighting that there were additional testimonies from the January 27, 2016 hearing.

Aside from the families, Topacio said they are going to call on other police officers "who have knowledge of how these things should be planned, and who can point out the lapses, the criminal lapses committed by the respondents here" to testify against the three respondents."

He added, their camp is asking for a fair and impartial trial, which will be a "litmus test" for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

"This is a chance for the ombudsman to prove that she is not beholden and she is not trying to protect the person who appointed her," said Topacio.

--with report from Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News