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Graft court puts Aquino trial on hold

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THE Sandiganbayan has suspended the arraignment of former President Benigno Aquino III, former police chief Alan Purisima, and former Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas on charges of graft and usurpation of authority to comply with a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

The three were supposed to be arraigned Thursday for their roles in the January 2015 Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police commandos were killed in a covert anti-terrorist operation.

The TRO was issued in response to a petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, which asked the Court to compel the Office of the Ombudsman to file more serious charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas.

Solicitor General Jose Calida had asked the Court to order the anti-graft body to charge Aquino with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide for the for the death of 44 members of the SAF in the bloody Mamasapano clash three years ago.

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Calida expressed his support for the petition filed by two relatives of the slain commandos.

Calida also sought the inclusion of Purisima and Napeñas as accused in 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

Earlier, the Ombudsman had charged Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas with usurpation of official functions and violation of the Anti-Graft Law, but the anti-graft body dismissed the case for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

“The act of public respondent Ombudsman in the case of dismissing the case for reckless imprudence, however, is a wanton disregard of the sufficiency of evidence to form a belief that a crime for reckless imprudence has been committed,” Calida said.

The chief state lawyer said Aquino allowed Napeñas to push through with the operation under Purisima, who was suspended at the time.

“As the PNP [Philippine National Police] is under the DILG, the President, as the Chief Executive, exercises supervision and control over it. Thus, given that the President gave the policy direction to arrest Marwan and Usman, and that he approved Oplan Exodus with full knowledge of its operational details, the Chief Executive is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the mission,” Calida said.

The 44 SAF members were killed in an operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and his right-hand Abdul Basit Usman on Jan. 25, 2015.

Marwan, a Malaysian bomb maker with a bounty from the US government, was killed during the operation, but a fierce encounter ensued, killing 44 SAF members.

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