The Sandiganbayan has approved the prosecution's motion to consolidate the graft and usurpation cases of former President Benigno Aquino III with that of former Philippine National Philippine chief Alan Purisima and former Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas.
Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang granted the motion on Friday during the proceedings at the anti-graft court's Third Division. The cases stemmed from the January 2015 Mamasapano clash.
Aquino's counsel Joseph de Jesus said Aquino "will no longer comment and instead submit the matter for the resolution of the court," prompting Tang to immediately grant the prosecution's motion.
"Finding the grounds to be meritorious, the same motion is hereby granted," Tang said.
The prosecution said the cases of Aquino essentially have the same charges, facts and incidents as those of Purisima and Napeñas', making their merging the "proper" course of action.
"The complaints in the present cases involve not only Aquino but Purisima and Napeñas as well. While only accused Aquino was charged in the Informations, accused Napeñas and Purisima were again subjected to preliminary investigation and required to file their respective counter-affidavits," the motion filed on November 23 read.
The motion also said the counter-affidavits showed that both cases "invoked the same defenses" to the charges.
Both cases, one raffled to the Third Division and the other to the Fourth, charged Aquino, Purisima, and Napeñas for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and of Usurpation of Official Functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
It is common practice for the Sandiganbayan to consolidate similar cases to the lower docket number.
Fourth Division Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Reynaldo Cruz, and Bayani Jacinto will now handle all cases related to the Mamasapano massacre, where over 60 people, including 44 SAF members, were killed in a predawn operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
Aquino has been accused of influencing Purisima, who was forced to defy his preventive suspension and the PNP chain of command, in planning the operation.
The Ombudsman formally filed a criminal complaint against Aquino on November 7. It was later raffled to the Third Division.
In his defense, Aquino said Purisima was a mere "resource person" during the planning of the Mamasapano operation. —KBK, GMA News