MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court has ordered a halt on court proceedings on graft and usurpation of authority cases filed against former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III at the Sandiganbayan for his alleged role in the 2015 bloody Mamasapano anti-terror raid.
In a resolution dated February 7, the High Court's First Division granted Solicitor General Jose Calida's plea for a temporary restraining order to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from implementing its resolutions which downgraded cases against Aquino as well as proceedings on the cases at the Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman had previously junked homicide raps against Aquino and instead charged the former chief executive with the lesser offense of graft and usurpation of authority.
The High Tribunal also barred the anti-graft court from proceeding with the arraignment of Aquino, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima, and former Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napeñas.
The arraignment was supposedly scheduled on Thursday, Feb. 15.
Calida had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Ombudsman's decision indicting Aquino and his co-accused for graft and usurpation, asking instead that they face trial for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide over the deaths of 44 SAF commandos in the Mamasapano raid.
The bloodbath had sparked public outrage and scuttled peace talks between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest rebel Moro group.
The government's top lawyer hailed the Supreme Court ruling, saying it is a step closer to justice.
"I commend the Supreme Court for granting the TRO and upholding the sacred duty of the State to prosecute crimes. This is the first step to hold those responsible for the senseless killing of the SAF44," Calida said in a tweet.
Malacañang meanwhile said it respects the order of the High Court.
"We respect that Order of the SC noting that prosecution of case is handled by the Special Prosecutor of the OMB (Ombudsman)," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Aquino had insisted that the botched anti-terror mission was not his fault, pinning the blame instead on Napeñas who allegedly disobeyed orders to coordinate with the Philippine Army.
The former president also denied holding back military reinforcements to preserve a ceasefire with the MILF.
-report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News