THE anti-graft court Sandiganbayan this week dismissed the graft and usurpation charges filed against former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III over the 2015 Mamasapano massacre.
In a six-page resolution promulgated on Thursday, August 22, the Sandiganbayan 4th Division dropped the charges upon the request of Ombudsman Samuel Martires, who said that there was no sufficient ground and evidence to charge Aquino.
The former president had been accused of violating of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices, and usurpation of official functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
“Considering that the records of the present cases are bereft of any evidence that would merit further proceedings as against accused Aquino…the Court finds that the dismissal of the said cases is indeed warranted,” the resolution read.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the subject Motion to Withdraw case Information is hereby granted. Accordingly, the criminal cases filed against Benigno Simeon Aquino III… are dismissed without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate charge/s against him,” it added.
Division chairman Associate Justice Alex Quiroz penned the resolution with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Ronald Moreno.
Aquino was charged with graft and usurpation by then-ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in November 2017 for allowing the participation of sacked police chief Alan Purisima in the operation even though Purisima was already suspended at the time.
The operation led to the killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) policemen.
Earlier, Martires slammed his predecessor for filing the charges, stressing that the president cannot usurp the power of a subordinate nor influence or induce a subordinate to act against the law.
“He’s the president of the Philippines, he got all the power, how can he usurp the power of policemen who were his subordinates. He’s the commander-in-chief… He can anytime take over the functions of the chief PNP,” Martires said after the hearing of his motion to withdraw the cases.
The withdrawal of Aquino’s cases came as a setback for the families of the SAF 44, who wanted to charge Aquino with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
Represented by administration ally Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), the SAF 44 asked the Supreme Court to change the charges. The appeal is backed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
“Nothing can prevent us from re-filing a complaint. But we will first wait for the decision of the Supreme Court because as you know, we have a certiorari case saying that the former ombudsman exercised grave abuse of discretion, so out of respect and deference to the highest court, let us wait first on its ruling,” VACC lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said.
Martires, for his part, said the Office of the Ombudsman “will entertain” a refiled complaint as well as “investigate it.”