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Sandigan, VACC await SC move

Hananeel Bordey



The Sandiganbayan held off action on Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ motion to drop the graft and usurpation charges filed against former President Benigno Aquino stemming from the bloody Mamasapano clash in 2015 saying it will wait for the lifting of Supreme Court’s (SC) temporary restraining order (TRO) on hearing the cases.

The anti-graft court has not deliberated on Martires’ motion after the court said they were barred by the TRO in acting on the petition.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said once the TRO is lifted, the homicide cases will be refiled against Aquino.

VACC legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio, who represented the private complainants before the court, said VACC will definitely resubmit the charges against Aquino.

Charges filed by Morales was meant to cover the tracks of the former president by a political stooge

“Nothing can prevent us from re-filing. We have a certiorari case saying that the former Ombudsman [Morales] exercised grave abuse of discretion, so we have to wait for that, out of respect and deference to the highest court of the land,” Topacio said in an ambush interview.

Topacio claimed the previous charges filed by Morales was “meant to cover the tracks of the former president by a political stooge.”

Last 7 February 2018, the SC issued a TRO following the petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General and relatives of the elite forces who died in the clash saying Aquino should face 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide instead of graft and usurpation of authority charges filed by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Martires explained Aquino could not be charged with usurpation as the former President has all the agency under his supervision.

“The motion was based on the immunity of the president concerned during his incumbency. It is simply because no president of the Republic of the Philippines can be accused of usurpation of official functions. Anyone who claims otherwise, if he is a lawyer must go back to the college of law,” Martires told Sandiganbayan.

Last 24 June, Martires submitted a motion withdrawing charges of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Usurpation of Official Functions stated under the Revised Penal Code filed by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales who is an appointee of Aquino.

The Ombudsman said he reviewed Morales’ dismissal of the charges of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide against Aquino, former National Police Chief Alan Purisima and relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas.

No contest from Noy
Aquino’s legal counsel, Atty. Jason Aguilar, did not argue Martires’ motion saying they are in favor of the withdrawal of information.

In an ambush interview, Martires explained that the SC should issue the lifting of the TRO before the motion can be submitted as resolution before Sandiganbayan.

“He was the President of the Philippines and all the powers even that of the barangay captains resides in him so how can he usurp another authority,” he said.

Martires said he has been asking the prosecutors to file the motion since August 2018, shortly after he was appointed as Ombudsman by President Rodrigo Duterte.

He said the prosecutors only agreed with him when he said that he will file the motion himself.

“It’s a manifestation that we filed a motion before the Sandiganbayan. I am crossing my fingers and am hoping that SC will favor us,” Martires added.

New case should be filed
Asked if Martires will file reckless imprudence resulting to homicide, he said that he will not pursue it or conduct a motu propio investigation on the SAF 44 case as he respects the decision of his predecessor.

“Why should I [file]? I respect the decision of my predecessor. So why should I?,” Martires said as he added that anyone is at liberty to file a homicide case against Aquino.

with Elmer Manuel