Duterte: 'Silly' cases vs Aquino over Mamasapano bound to fail

By Audrey Morallo


President Rodrigo Duterte believes that the cases filed agains former President Benigno Aquino III in relation to the botched Mamasapano incident in which 44 commandos died are bound to "fail." AP/File

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2, 8:12 pm) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday described the charges filed against his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, as "silly" and said that these were bound to fail.

Duterte was reacting to the decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales — whom he criticized earlier in the day — to charge Aquino after he allowed then suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to participate in a police operation to capture a Malaysian terrorist and a Filipino bomber.

The incident led to the deaths of around 60 Filipinos, including 44 police commandos, and sparked among the biggest controversies of Aquino’s presidency from 2010 to 2016.

Duterte, speaking to the media after the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was handed to him, said that the cases filed against Aquino last Friday are bound to fail.

He described the charge the ombudsman filed against Aquino as “silly” and “rotten” and expressed his belief that it would eventually fail as Aquino had the powers to consult anyone.

“It was a silly charge. Kaya yung charge kay Aquino will fail,” the president said. “Sabi ko bugok yung decision.”\

'President can call anybody to help him'

Earlier in the day, the fiery Duterte severely criticized Morales for saying that his public comments were “goading” people to kill.

"Conchita Carpio Morales blew her tact and castigated me publicly for just mentioning killing criminals," Duterte said during the oath-taking of new government appointees.

The chief executive said that, as president during the operation, Aquino had powers to seek the advice of anyone, including Purisima, who was suspended over an allegedly anomalous contract for the delivery of firearms licenses.

"Hindi mo masabi na usurpation of authority because lahat ng sinabi nila ay merged in the president. He can call anybody to help him to fight a criminal operation there," Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said.

Duterte’s comments were in stark contrast to the opinion of his lawyer and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, who said on Saturday that Aquino’s time of reckoning had come with the filing of the cases.

“Sooner or later the the (sic) law will catch up on those who use power or wealth to shield themselves from the majesty of the law. There is a time for reckoning and the time has finally come for the former president,” Panelo said in a statement.

The chief executive said that Purisima was simply providing input during the operation was not directly involved in the failed operation.

Duterte said that since Aquino was not a military man, it was normal for him to seek the advice of professional policemen such as Purisima.

He added that nobody could interfere in the decision of the president to seek advice from anyone, including the suspended Purisima.

“He was just asking for advice from a professional policeman. I don’t see anything wrong there,” Duterte said.

'Failures are part of operations'

Duterte also said that nobody should be charged for the failed operation as failures were part of the reality during military operations — the PNP is a civilian organization but its SAF is also trained for commando operations.

The president said that although dozens of Filipino police officers were killed, the operation could still be considered a success as it was able to get a finger of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman, also a target of the operation, was killed in a follow-up operation later on.

“It was a success because they were able to get the finger of Marwan,” Duterte said. The finger, which was sent to the US FBI for DNA analysis, was used to confirm the success of the mission.

Duterte believed that the failed operation was the burden of Aquino but said that he understood the lack of assistance, reinforcements and support as there were women and children who might get killed.

He said that even he would object to such a decision.

“The shortcoming is the burden of Aquino. May shortcoming dun. There was no assistance, reinforcements, air assets, the canons which reach [the area]. But then you cannot do it because the people, the women and children there. Magkagulo tuloy. Pati ako I will object to that. I will never order an operation in a certain place that would kill [civilians],” the president said.

Duterte said that as the head of the executive branch, the president could override, amend or even overturn the decision of any Cabinet member.

“The president has the privilege of being a failure and being a successful commander.”

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