MANILA, Philippines - Charges of graft and usurpation of authority have been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and sacked Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napeñas for their role in the deadly operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.
In a 15-page criminal complaint, former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. said Purisima violated Section 13 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when he took charge of Oplan Exodus while under suspension.
The complaint against Napeñas stemmed from his following orders from a suspended officer. The ombudsman ordered Purisima suspended for six months last Dec. 4 over separate corruption charges.
In the Mamasapano operation, SAF commandos managed to kill one of their terrorist targets – Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan – but lost 44 of their own at the hands of guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
“As many claimed, Purisima not only knew of the operation, but actually controlled and directed the operations, despite his being currently suspended from duty,” the charge sheet read.
Syjuco said President Aquino assigned Purisima to lead Oplan Exodus without the knowledge of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina was also kept out of the loop.
“On this point alone, it may well be said that Aquino considered Purisima as still the ‘de facto PNP chief’ in assigning to him the sensitive mission, despite his suspended status,” the complaint read.
He said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Purisima ran the Mamasapano operations.
“No advisory ‘palusot’ (alibi) can save Purisima. His attempted distinction, as a lame excuse, with nary a shame, between an ‘order’ and an ‘advice’ is one for the books, and that he was allegedly not issuing orders, but merely giving advice,” he said. He called Purisima’s excuse “completely absurd and incredulous.”
“For Purisima, it is clear that he acted as the police chief and directed a legitimate police operation despite his effective suspension,” Syjuco said.
“For Napeñas, it is also clear that he took his direction and orders from suspended Purisima who had no authority over him whatsoever, and that Purisima was clearly not his direct superior,” he pointed out.
He said the “fraudulent acts” of the two officials “wasted away” SAF troopers and caused “damage or chaos” to the PNP and the military.
He said a “fraudulent error of such enormity cannot be acceptable nor tolerable in any organized society.”
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the witness who has offered to identify the killers of the SAF commandos appears to be credible.
“Our conclusion, and this is shared by all members of the team, is that the account of the witness matched with the physical setup of the site,” she told reporters in an interview. She called the statement of the witness “very vital.”
She said the witness stood out among several other witnesses interviewed by the DOJ team in Mamasapano.
“We can say that this witness is really very important because of what the person saw during the actual encounter,” she said.
She stressed that the ocular inspection was more “helpful, useful and significant” in helping investigators piece together details of the armed clash than video footage and photographs.
De Lima again declined to identify the witness but revealed the latter is being considered for the Witness Protection Program.
She did not confirm or deny reports that the witness was a veteran MILF combatant close to Marwan and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman. She also declined to give details of the ongoing DOJ probe so as not to preempt findings or jeopardize the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF.
The DOJ chief said she was expecting to receive yesterday the copy of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) report on the incident.
She earlier gave the DOJ team led by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera until April 2 to come up with its findings.
De Lima also expressed belief certain sectors were taking advantage of the Mamasapano incident to fuel conflict among concerned agencies.
“I think there are sectors that want to create chaos,” she pointed out.
“We should avoid speculations at this point because speculations from certain sectors are fueling conflict. We should instead come up with a proper closure to this issue,” she added.
Meanwhile, some police officials expressed belief the Board of Inquiry report can be used as basis for the filing of appropriate charges in court against Purisima. – With Jaime Laude, Edu Punay
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