After more than two years, the families of the fallen 44 Special Action Force members in the Mamasapano massacre found a ray of light in their search for justice as the Ombudsman ordered the filing of charges against former President Benigno Aquino III for usurpation of authority and violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
On January 25, 2015, 44 out of almost 400 SAF commandos were killed by Moro rebels during “Oplan Exodus,” an operation to arrest two international terrorists, Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Ahmad Akmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The failed operation was blamed to then suspended Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima, SAF Chief Getulio Napeñas Jr., and President Aquino. Besides former President Aquino, the two chiefs were also indicted for graft and usurpation of authority. A big factor that contributed to the criminal case filed against former President Aquino was allowing PNP Chief Purisima to take part in the operation despite the latter’s suspension from office.
The previous Congress conducted several hearings to investigate the botched Oplan Exodus. As a result of the initial investigation of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs then chaired by Senator Grace Poe, President Aquino was regarded to be ultimately accountable for the failed operation. Currently, the Senate plans to reinvestigate the case, with hopes that former President Aquino will man up and face the consequences of his shortcoming. Senator Gordon also pointed out that President Aquino should be slapped with graver charges because there were clear grounds for multiple homicide to reckless imprudence.
In honor of the fallen SAF 44 commandos, a 26-foot long mural entitled, “Tagaligtas 44,” and an 18-foot tall monument was created by the Erehwon Center for the Arts Foundation Inc. These were installed in the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) in Silang, Cavite. On August 2015, the mural was removed at the PNPA open lobby, which as far as we know, was an order by President Aquino. Vice President Jejomar Binay took custody of the mural, which was transferred to the Coconut Palace, the official residence of the Vice President.
We are just halfway through our search for justice in the Mamasapano massacre. While the filing of criminal charges against the accountable officials will settle the issue of legal responsibility, the nation will continue to be bothered by this tragic incident that was mishandled. We, most importantly the families of the fallen troopers, all deserve justice. The gravity of the charges filed do not define justice, but the prevalence of truth and the persecution of those who have violated the law. Hopefully, the case reaches a closure that would be acceptable to the whole nation.