'No conspiracy': Aquino asserts actions in deadly Mamasapano raid part of presidential powers

Arianne Merez,ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2017 07:03 PM | Updated as of Jul 21 2017 11:27 AM

Former President Benigno Aquino III seen here at a ceremony of the Philippine National Police- Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City on March 4, 2015, less than two months after the bloody Mamasapano raid. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA- Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has maintained that his actions in relation to the botched January 2015 anti-terror raid in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao were within the bounds of his powers as Commander-in-Chief.

In a motion for reconsideration filed Wednesday before the Office of the Ombudsman, Aquino asserted that there were "no overt acts to establish conspiracy" among him, his former national police chief, retired Director General Alan Purisima, and the former chief of the police Special Action Force (SAF), retired Director Getulio Napeñas.

"All of the actions that I carried out during the briefing for Oplan Exodus and its implementation were perfectly within the bounds of my powers and functions as the President of the Philippines and the Chief Executive," he said.

"I can directly order any person or any subordinate to do what must be done— including those acting as resource persons to provide vital information and inputs to guide me in fully understanding the nuances of a police operation," said Aquino in his 19-page pleading.

Aquino filed the motion on Wednesday in response to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales' order Friday that he be charged with usurpation of authority and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act for his role in the raid, where 44 elite police commandos were killed.

Countering his indictment, Aquino maintained that Purisima's only participation in the police operation was to function as a resource person. At the time, Purisima had already been preventively suspended in relation to a separate graft case against him. 

"In this regard and contrary to the conclusions of the Honorable Office, Respondent Purisima’s only participation as far as I was concerned was to act as a resource person," Aquino said.

The Ombudsman had cited Aquino for "criminal negligence," saying he participated in the "flawed" planning of the operation to capture Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Marwan was killed during the Mamasapano operation, but ensuing clashes involving the SAF operatives, Moro rebels and private armed groups resulted in scores of fatalities.

The Ombudsman said Aquino was "fully aware" that Purisima was serving out a suspension over an alleged anomalous courier service deal when the mission, dubbed "Oplan Exodus", was planned.

"To stress, there is nothing irregular, much less illegal, about my act of utilizing all the resources available at my disposal, including sourcing information and inputs from anyone-whether they are in active service or not," Aquino said.

For conspiracy to be concluded, Aquino said there should have been an overt act to prove it. But, he noted, the Ombudsman only relied on the exchange of text messages between him and Purisima.

"The finding and the conclusion that I assented to and/or failed to prevent Respondent Purisima from exercising his official functions despite his preventive suspension is downright specious and unfounded," Aquino said.

The former President also said he was "never given the opportunity to squarely address and refute" the charges against him.