Former president Benigno Aquino faces criminal charges

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Benigno Aquino
Former president Benigno Aquino at work.

Criminal charges have been filed against former president Benigno Aquino for his part in a botched raid that resulted in the deaths of 44 police commandos in 2015.

The Office of the Ombudsman today (Wednesday, November 8) confirmed that it had charged him with usurpation of authority, as well as graft and corruption, following preliminary investigations.

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January 2015 incident in Mamasapano in Maguindano province contributed to the stalling of peace efforts with Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines and was the biggest crisis of Aquino’s 2010-2016 presidency.

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan said Aquino allowed a suspended police chief to be involved in the planning and execution of the raid and kept the interior minister and police officer in charge out of the loop.

Police Special Action Force commandos killed two al Qaeda-linked militants but were ambushed and outnumbered by militants during the raid.

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The incident caused national outrage and Aquino’s approval and trust ratings fell to record lows.

Aquino’s representative did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

In a rare show agreement, both President Duterte and his fiercest political critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes both questioned the basis for the charges.

Senator Trillanes said there was no negligence on the part of Aquino when he ordered former PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas to launch Oplan Exodus that cost the 44 lives.

“He [Aquino] gave the order to Mr Napeñas and provided resources, so for us the commander is the one responsible if anything goes wrong. You just cannot put the blame on the president.

“To say the mission was botched because the President gave me orders is just not right. It will set a bad precedent. Otherwise, every botched mission of the AFP and PNP you can file a case against the commander in chief.”

President Duterte agreed, saying Trillanes “has a good point there.”

He said a president had supervision and control over his subordinates and could overturn their decisions or decide to exercise the function himself. “You cannot usurp what is inherently your duty,” he said.

The president added that the cases were bound to fail.

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