MANILA – Malacañang on Friday said it respects the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to indict former President Benigno Aquino III over a botched anti-terror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said President Rodrigo Duterte wants to put closure on the issue and heal wounds created by the tragedy, where 44 elite cops were killed by lawless elements and Moro rebels.
“The President recognizes the heroic sacrifice of the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force 44, and it is his – and the nation’s – hope to finally bring justice to the victims and families of the Fallen 44 and put closure to the issue as part of the healing process,” Abella said in a statement.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered Aquino charged with usurpation of authority and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act, the investigating body said in a statement.
Also included in the charges were Aquino's former national police chief, retired Director General Alan Purisima, and former Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas.
The Ombudsman cited Aquino for "criminal negligence," saying he participated in the "flawed" planning of a police commando raid to capture Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan was killed during the assault in the remote town of Mamasapano, but an ensuing clash between SAF and Muslim rebels in the area resulted in scores of fatalities.
The Ombudsman also said Aquino was, at the time, "fully aware" that Purisima was serving a suspension order over an alleged anomalous firearms deal when "Oplan Exodus," the anti-terror raid, was planned.
The bloodshed sparked public outrage and set back the timeline of a peace accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It also dragged down the former President’s popularity towards the end of his administration.