MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division on Friday ordered the consolidation of the graft and usurpation cases of former President Benigno Aquino III with similar cases pending at the court's 4th Division against former police officials in connection with the bloody 2015 Mamasapano raid.
The cases were consolidated to save time for both the prosecution and the defense, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chairperson Amparao Cabotaje-Tang said in granting the motion in open court.
The consolidation paves the way for joint proceedings against Aquino and former police officials tagged in the botched raid, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and former PNP Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas.
Cabotaje-Tang is an appointee of former President Aquino while the chair of the 4th Division, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, is an appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
It has been the practice of divisions at the Sandiganbayan to forward a new case to another division where a similar case was first docketed.
Lawyers Joseph De Jesus and Johann Fernandez represented Aquino during the hearing on the motion.
“The accused will no longer comment and instead submit the matter for resolution,” De Jesus told the court before Cabotaje-Tang announced the court’s decision.
Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas are facing charges for the then PNP chief's supposed participation in the Mamasapano operation even while under preventive suspension at the time as he faced investigation over an allegedly anomalous courier service deal.
Purisima and Napeñas were indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman before Aquino stepped down as President.
Aquino was, meanwhile, charged in court in early November.
The Mamasapano anti-terror raid on Jan. 25, 2015 was aimed at arresting Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan was killed in the operation, but 44 SAF operatives and several civilians also died in the ensuing firefight between the police commandos and Moro rebels in the area.