The specter of the 2015 Mamasapano massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos continues to haunt former President Benigno Aquino III as Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the former head of the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG), submitted new evidence yesterday that would pin Aquino to the tragedy.
Magalong, who led the Board of Inquiry (BoI) that investigated the botched Operation Plan (Oplan) “Exodus,” joined the kin of the SAF 44 in calling on the Office of the Ombudsman to reopen the investigations on the gruesome incident.
The families of the slain commandos submitted Magalong’s affidavit as new evidence to reopen the case that will now carry the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against the former commander-in-chief.
The Supreme Court (SC) last 3 September affirmed the decision of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to dismiss the complaints for multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against former president Aquino, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan M. Purisima, and former PNP Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas.
The motion was filed by Erlinda Allaga, Julie Danao, Celestino Kiangan, Felecitas Nacino and Arsenio Evangelista.
“Wherefore premises considered, it is respectfully prayed of this honorable office that the instant case be reopened in order to pave the way for the conduct of preliminary investigation in accordance with due process of law,” the motion stated.
As BoI head, Magalong pinned down Aquino for violating the chain of command in the implementation of Oplan “Exodus” targeting Malaysian terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, Amin Baco, alias Jihad, and Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman.
In his affidavit, Magalong reiterated Aquino’s liability for the killing of the 44 SAF commandos.
Slap on wrist
In August, the SC lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) over the lighter graft and usurpation charges filed by Morales against Aquino which she decided to initiate instead of the reckless imprudence charges.
Prior to its lifting, the TRO had frozen proceedings in charges in connection with the ill-planned 25 January 2015 Mamasapano incident which resulted in the death of 60 individuals, including 44 members of the SAF’s 55th Special Action Company and the 84th Special Action Company/Seaborne, in an operation to serve warrants on terrorists Marwan and Usman.
The Sandiganbayan then granted the motion of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to pull out the graft and usurpation charges against Aquino in connection with the deaths of the 44 SAF members, citing the evidence at hand was not enough for the case to prosper.
Magalong particularly cited how Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas kept “Exodus” for themselves until its actual implementation on 25 January 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Worse, Purisima was then serving a suspension for graft and corruption charges.
Magalong said the three deliberately failed to inform then PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
He said the death of the SAF 44 could have been averted were it not for the “poor” and “negligent planning and execution” of Oplan “Exodus.”
“Hence, it is important that those primarily involved in this tragedy should be held to answer for their crimes, so that there will be justice and closure for those who died,” said Magalong, a former SAF commando and director of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
“It is clearly evident that Aquino, being then the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should be held accountable and responsible for the deaths of the SAF 44 troopers in the botched Oplan ‘Exodus’ in Mamasapano, Maguindanao with Purisima and Napeñas in violation of the chain of command in the PNP,” he added.
Aquino was initially charged with violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices law and usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
The former president previously denied any hand in Oplan “Exodus” and blamed Napeñas for the blunder.