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Sandiganbayan acquits Purisima, Napeñas over Mamasapano clash

For lack of evidence, the Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and ex-PNP Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas of graft and usurpation charges for their involvement in the January 2015 anti-terrorist operation  that led to the deaths of 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.

In an 18-page Resolution, the Sandiganbayan said Purisima cannot be charged with graft since government prosecutors failed to allege that he received or expected to receive any material remuneration or consideration in the purported use of his influence on then-President Benigno Aquino III, who allowed him to supervise and monitor Oplan Exodus despite serving a suspension slapped on him by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Oplan Exodus was the operation aimed at neutralizing terrorists Zulkilfi bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman. The elite commandos were killed when engaged by a combined force of fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed elements in the area. 

Marwan was killed in the operation, while Usman was killed by authorities later that year, in May.

At the time of Oplan Exodus' implementation, Purisima was serving a suspension over graft charges arising from his alleged involvement in a supposed anomalous contract with courier firm  Werfast.

“The facts alleged in the subject information, if hypothetically admitted, do not constitute the crime of graft,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Likewise, the anti-graft court said Purisima cannot be charged with usurpation of authority despite his defiance of the Ombudsman’s suspension order because the prosecution failed to establish, by the quantum of evidence required at this stage of the proceedings, that he participated in executing Oplan Exodus under the pretense of official function.

“In this regard, the Court finds that there was no pretense of official function in these cases. The orders to accused Purisima relative to the purported mission planning and supervision directly came from Aquino — who cannot be accused of and be found liable for usurpation of official functions.

“In supervising and monitoring the operations of Oplan Exodus, it cannot be said that accused Purisima was under the pretense of being a PNP chief precisely because he was ordered by the President to perform such supervision and monitoring,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“Since President Aquino could not have committed the crime of usurpation of official functions therein, accused Purisima could not have been under the pretense of official function in following President Aquino’s orders. The inescapable conclusion is that accused Napeñas did not conspire with them in committing the said crime,” the court added.

No influence

As for Napeñas, the anti-graft court said the former police official cannot be held liable for graft because of two reasons namely:

  • the prosecution’s criminal information filed against Napeñas did not state that he received or expected to receive any material remuneration or consideration in following Purisima’s instructions and
  • state prosecutors did not present evidence that Napeñas received or expected to receive any material remuneration or consideration  in following Purisima’s instructions

In addition, the Sandiganbayan court said Napeñas is not liable for usurpation despite following orders from suspended Purisima since he knew that the latter was preventively suspended at the time.

“Purisima would not have to resort to pretense to make orders to accused Napeñas,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“There is insufficient evidence on record to proceed with the trial against accused Napeñas for usurpation of official functions. Consequently, the Court cannot proceed with issuing a warrant of arrest and further trying him for this charge,” the court added. — RSJ/BM, GMA News