Sandiganbayan junks Mamasapano massacre cases vs Purisima, Napeñas

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2020 05:45 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday dismissed for lack of probable cause graft and usurpation of official functions complaints against former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and former Special Action Forces (SAF) head Getulio Napeñas over the 2015 Mamasapano massacre. 

The ruling came nearly five years since the Jan. 25, 2015 botched anti-terror raid, where more than 60 people, including 44 SAF officers were killed. 

Last year, the Office of the Ombudsman under Samuel Martires withdrew the graft and usurpation of official functions cases against former president Benigno Aquino III. 

He was initially indicted for "criminal negligence" during the time of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who said the former commander-in-chief had participated in the "flawed" planning of a police commando raid to capture Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

The alleged terrorist was killed in the operation. The state troops were, meanwhile, killed in a clash with Moro rebels and private armed groups. 

The anti-graft court granted the motion to withdraw the cases on August 22, 2019.

Purisima subsequently filed a manifestation before the court as well as a motion to quash, arguing that the cases against him be dismissed as he only acted upon Aquino's instructions. 

Napeñas for his part filed an omnibus motion for the immediate dismissal of his cases.

The court said in its resolution promulgated Tuesday that “upon a motu proprio evaluation of the records of the present cases,” the charges are dismissed for lack of probable cause.

The resolution was penned by the division chairperson Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Michael Frederick Musngi.

Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang both concurred and dissented while Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto dissented.

Ombudsman Martires had earlier stated that its withdrawal of the graft and usurpation cases against Aquino was “without prejudice to the filing of appropriate charges against accused after the conduct of preliminary investigation.”

In the resolution, the court emphasized that it was not concluding that Purisima and Napeñas were without liability in the conduct of the operation which led to the deaths. 

“What the court merely rules upon is the non-existence of probable cause as against accused Napeñas for both charges and the insufficiency of the allegations in the informations filed against accused Purisima,” the court said.

With the dismissal of the cases of Purisima and Napeñas, their bail bonds were also ordered released by the court and the hold departure orders against them lifted.