The chief presidential legal counsel said Friday that the Ombudsman indicted former President Benigno Aquino III for usurpation of legislative powers merely to appease the public.
“While in the narrow sense the indictment of former President Aquino is a welcome development [in] President Duterte’s relentless campaign against graft and corruption, it must be noted that charge is but a consuelo de bobo indictment,” Duterte’s chief legal counsel said in a statement.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the Ombudsman could have charged Aquino with malversation, instead of just usurpation of legislative powers, which is punishable with imprisonment of six months and one day, temporary special disqualification and a fine not exceeding P1,000.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales “found probable cause” to summon Aquino to court for the alleged unlawful issuance of National Budget Circular No. 541 for the implementation of Disbursement Acceleration Program, an economic stimulus program that the Supreme Court later declared as unconstitutional.
Given that the case involved P36 billion of the people’s money, and that the Supreme Court found the program illegal, the crime should have been plunder, or at least graft and corruption, Panelo said.
“There is a glaring discrepancy of the act committed as against the complaint filed,” he said.
He said the present charge against the former President is a repeat of the anomalous previous charge against him arising out of the Mamasapano massacre, where instead of being charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, only an usurpation of authority case was filed.
The Supreme Court has stopped the trial of Aquino on the Mamasapano tragedy upon a petition of the solicitor general.
“There must be a rectification of this omission and the process of reversing such indictments is in progress,” Panelo said.
“While sometime the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow, [they do] grind, and in the end justice will catch up [with] the perpetrators of the crime [who] reap their deserved punishment. Crime does not pay no matter your status in life,” Panelo added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said Aquino did not pocket any of the DAP money, so the lighter charge made sense.
“While I feel for the former president, the question on his possible culpability on the actions taken by his DBM secretary will largely depend on the documents and paper trail made available to the Ombudsman prosecutors to prove or disprove his direct or indirect participation,” he said in a statement.
“What is clear, though, is that former President Aquino did not pocket any DAP money, hence the case filed is for usurpation of legislative power and not violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” Lacson added.
Aquino’s Liberal Party defended the DAP, saying it was intended to speed the delivery of services and infrastructure.
Roque said more Aquino allies would be charged over the pork barrel scam, based on documents provided to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I am sure, there are still many who should be charged and these were the ones being mentioned by the President who has documents,” Roque said.
He said these officials were all allied to Aquino and have not yet been charged for their alleged role in the pork barrel scam.
“Well, the complaint [of selective justice] did not come from the President alone, and those charged were only the opposition of the former President Aquino. And that’s the object of complaint--selective justice,” Roque said.