The Philippines Office of the Ombudsman [official website] announced plans to charge [press release] former Philippines president Benigno Aquino III [Britannica profile] on Friday for the botched “anti-terror” raid that led to what is known as the Mamasapano massacre in 2015. The raid left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead as a result of a firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and another privately armed group. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales [official profile] ordered that Aquino be charged with usurpation of authority under the Revised Penal Code [text, PDF] and the Philippines Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act [text, PDF]. According to the order, the charges are based on: 1) participation and assistance in planning the operation with gross and inexcusable negligence; 2) approval of the operation with full knowledge that it was flawed; 3) allowing suspended [Philippine National Police] Chief Alan Purisima to participate in the planning and running of said operation and proving information and intelligence, and (4) breach of established norms inherent in a chain of command. Of Purisima’s involvement specifically, Morales stated:
there is no gainsaying that President Aquino was fully aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had placed Purisima under preventive suspension at that time [for the anomalous Werfest deal].” Despite this, SMS exchanges between President Aquino and Purisima showed that the suspended police chief played a major role in the botched operation …. certainly a public officer who is under preventive suspension in barred from performing any public functions and from meddling into the affairs of the government.
Others charged in this order include Purisima himself and SAF Director Getulio Napeñas. According to Aquino, he did not directly participate in the planning and execution of the operation. Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said that Aquino is currently in the process of seeking advice from his attorneys.
Philippines has been on the international spotlight ever since Rodrigo Duterte took office as the president of the nation. In June, Philippine opposition lawmakers petitioned the Supreme Court [official website] to reject President Rodrigo Duterte’s [BBC profile] imposition of martial law. Duterte declared martial law [JURIST report] on the island of Mindanao in May when heavily armed militants linked to the Islamic State [BBC profile] took over large parts of Marawi City, a provincial capital in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. In April, a lawyer filed a complaint [JURIST report] against Duterte accusing him of extrajudicial killings during his nationwide anti-drugs crackdown. In March, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report accusing the police of falsifying evidence [JURIST report] in relation to the alleged police killings of citizens. This policy of sanctioned killings has been part of Duterte’s rhetoric since his time as mayor of Davao City. In December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] called for a murder investigation [JURIST report] for a murder investigation of Duterte after he admitted to killing people while he served as mayor of Davao.