The Daily Manila Shimbun


Aquino may face charges for Mamasapano operation: Panelo

January 25, 2017

Former President Benigno Aquino III may face charges for the botched anti-terrorism operation two years ago that left 60 people, including 44 police commandos, dead in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.

In an interview on Wednesday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo defended President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to create an independent commission to probe  the Mamasapano incident on January 25, 2015 even if several investigations were conducted during the previous administration.

"As we all know, the previous administration was biased on certain allies that were subjected to investigation. So, it's about time that we conduct another probe to find out the truth behind it," Panelo said.

"Under the law, there is such thing as criminal responsibility. There is also so called reckless imprudence. So, we have to determine exactly who are responsible and what is is the extent of their responsibility, whether administrative or criminal liability, as well as civil liability," he said.

Asked if Aquino could face charges in relation to the Mamasapano incident, Panelo said, "if you're talking about possibilities, everything is possible but it depends on the facts."

Duterte, during his meeting with some family members of the slain members of the Special Action Force who conducted the operation against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, announced the creation of an independent body to be composed of seven members from retired justices and lawyers.

Panelo said the commission may call any person, including Aquino, during the investigation because, "I suppose the commission will have the power to subpoena certain persons."

Senate President Koko Pimentel, in an ambush interview, said: “ If you are a former president, then you lose your so-called ‘immunity from suit.’ I am not saying that you also lose your “presumption of innocence.”

Aquino, interviewed on TV, said his lawyers are preparing their answer and a press statement will be issued on Thursday.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said “this commission might find answers to the questions that were not answered in previous inquiries and maybe we can finally find the closure on these issues.

Aguirre said among the issues are: Did President Aquino give an order to stand down and not to reinforce the pinned down SAF troopers? Why was it that our artillery’s phosphorous rounds were fired only after most if not all of our SAF troopers have died?

“Last but most important of all, why were the mobile phones of all those involved in the planning and the directing of Oplan Exodus from President Aquino down to the officers not submitted for forensic examination? As far as I know, only General Napenas immediately submitted his mobile unit to the CIDG for forensic examination," he added.

Aguirre raised the question why Aquino was not included in the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman even after his term ended, losing his immunity from suits.

"I really wonder why he was cleared right away when there was no thorough investigation yet. Now that he no longer has immunity, this should be investigated thoroughly," he said.

Aguirre said he would inhibit from the probe since he was one of the lawyers of SAF Director Getulio Napenas. Celerina Monte/DMS