MANILA - Former President Benigno Aquino III was absent Friday at his scheduled arraignment for his graft and usurpation of authority case at the Sandiganbayan 4th Division because of his pending motion to quash.
Aquino is facing one count of graft and one count of usurpation of authority for his alleged role in the botched January 2015 anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 elite police officers and several civilians and Moro rebels were killed.
Sandiganbayan 4th Division Chairperson Alex Quiroz gave the prosecution time to comment on Aquino’s motion to quash.
“The prosecution is given ten days to comment,” prosecutor Adonis Laure told the media after the hearing.
In his plea to quash the case, Aquino, through his lawyers, said the court should dismiss the charges for “failing to state a violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 3019; for containing factual averments which, if true, actually constitute a legal excuse or justification; [and] for being filed by the Ombudsman without authority.”
Aquino's camp emphasized that his actions related to the Mamasapano incident were within his powers as President.
“All of these acts fell squarely within Mr. Aquino’s powers, functions and prerogatives as then President of the Philippines and, therefore, cannot be deemed as criminal acts," the pleading read.
Aquino’s lawyer Romeo Fernandez explained that even if the prosecution would be able to prove allegations on the former President’s role in the incident, there is no reason to convict him.
“Halimbawa, na-prove lahat ng mga factual statements and information, kahit na-prove 'yun, hindi magkakaroon ng conviction. 'Yun ang basic premise ng motion to quash (For instance, all the factual statements and information were proven, even so, there won't be a conviction. That's the basic premise of the motion to quash)," he said.
Aquino’s camp hopes that with the reasons they cited, the court would quash or dismiss the cases.
"Kapag na-grant ang motion to quash, then wala nang arraignment, para madi-dismiss siya (If the motion to quash is granted, then there will be no arraignment, the case will be dismissed),” Fernandez said.
One magistrate even joked so. During discussions on the new schedule of Aquino's arraignment, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz said in jest: “We may even grant your motion.”
The court decided to reset the arraignment to February 15.