Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday said former President Benigno Aquino III should not be charged for graft and usurpation when it was former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas who was responsible for the ill-fated encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015 that killed 44 police commandos.
Trillanes said there is no negligence on the part of Aquino since Napeñas had command of the almost 400 SAF troopers on the midnight of January 25, 2015 in pursuit of wanted terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
The operation neutralized Marwan but also resulted in an encounter with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as the SAF made their way out of the area.
"Binigay niya [Aquino] ang order kay Mr. Napeñas at binigyan ng resources, so sa amin ‘yung commander, ikaw ang responsible kapag pumalpak," Trillanes said in an interview with reporters.
"Hindi mo puwedeng isisi sa taas, sa presidente yung kapalpakan mo na sabihin e 'kaya ako pumalpak kasi binigyan ako ng order ng presidente.' Hindi puwede yun," he added after filing a criminal complaint against Senator Richard Gordon at the Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman formally charged Aquino with one count each of graft and usurpation of official function at the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday morning.
Trillanes said he believes Aquino is capable of defending himself in the anti-graft court, saying the former chief executive is not liable for the offense charged against him, particularly the usurpation of official function.
"Naniniwala ako na kayang depensahan ni President Aquino ang kanyang sarili dahil personally, hindi pwedeng makasuhan ng usurpation of authority ang commander-in-chief and wala rin namang command responsibility... walang negligence on the part of the president," Trillanes said.
Napeñas and former PNP chief Alan Purisima are already facing trial at the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division for their role in the Mamasapano encounter.
Trillanes said that charging Aquino sets a bad precedent in case of any failed missions by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the future.
"It will set a bad precedent kasi otherwise lahat ng palpak na mission sa AFP and PNP ay puwede mong file-an ng kaso yung commander-in-chief. Hindi puwede yun," Trillanes said.
He, nonetheless, said the complaint shows the Ombudsman's impartiality in filing cases at the Sandiganbayan, contrary to the accusations of selective justice by President Rodrigo Duterte against the anti-graft body.
"It shows yung objectivity ng Ombudsman na walang pinipili, magkabilang panig kahit ano pa yun so magandang indication yan," Trillanes said.
"Right or wrong wala silang pinipili, so contrary sa sinasabi ni Mr. Duterte. 'Pag siya iniimbestigahan biased e pero pag ito na ang lumalabas e yun nga, lumalabas talaga na objective," he added. — BM, GMA News