MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday made a rare agreement with his staunch critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, supporting the latter's statement that charges against former President Benigno Aquino III in connection with the bloody January 2015 Mamasapano anti-terror raid would set a bad precedent.
Trillanes, a former Navy officer, earlier said putting the blame on Aquino for the botched Mamasapano mission, where 44 elite police commandos were killed, means that all failed military and police operations may now be pinned on the country’s chief executive.
Duterte agreed with Trillanes, saying the senator “has a good point there.”
The President also repeated his earlier argument that Aquino should not have been slapped with usurpation charges because he was the commander-in-chief of the military and the police.
“The President has the supervision and control [over the police and military.] Supervision and control means he can overturn your decision,” Duterte told reporters before departing for Vietnam to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
“All those under the appointed officer, lahat sila under the control. Iyung function ng pulis, function ng military, the President can always intervene, modify, amend or change altogether, change your ideas," he said.
The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday formally charged Aquino with graft and usurpation charges before the Sandiganbayan over the botched operation to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan was killed in the operation, but 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) also died in firefights against Moro rebels at the time of the raid.
The Ombudsman said Aquino "willfully, unlawfully and feloniously" allowed Director General Alan Purisima, then suspended chief of the Philippine National Police, to participate in planning the operation.
In September, the Ombudsman junked Aquino's motion to overturn his indictment, clearing the way for the filing of criminal information against him.
Aquino has insisted that the botched anti-terror mission was not his fault, pinning the blame instead on then PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas, who allegedly disobeyed orders to coordinate with the Army.
The former president also denied holding back military reinforcements to preserve a ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the time of the clashes.
Aquino's case will be raffled for hearing among the 5 Sandiganbayan divisions on Friday.
The Ombudsman has recommended a P30,000 bail for graft and P10,000 bail for usurpation charges against Aquino.
Similar cases have been filed against Purisima and Napeñas.