Noy frets about going to jail like Leila

By Aurea Calica

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Former president Benigno Aquino III is interviewed by The STAR at his residence on Times street in Quezon City yesterday. JOEY VIDUYA

MANILA, Philippines - Former president Benigno Aquino III has sought fairness from all sectors as he faces for the first time the possibility of being tried in court, and possibly even detention, for alleged graft and usurpation of authority in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano massacre.

In an interview with The STAR yesterday, Aquino stressed he would file a motion for reconsideration of the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision indicting him for usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of Section 3 (a) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“I’d be lying if you’d say (I have no fears). I always adopt the attitude of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. That is a healthy attitude. My sisters, actually they came here Friday night. Before I got the chance to talk to my lawyers and they were asking all about these things because they are concerned, and I’m also concerned. But I told them, if there is room for the truth to come out, then we’re OK,” Aquino said.

The former president admitted that it would be a difficult process for him and his family, especially since this was the first time he was getting charged.

Also, the detention of a close political ally, Sen. Leila de Lima, could somehow cause some feeling of fear. De Lima is facing charges for alleged links to the illegal drug trade.

His prayer, Aquino says, is for guidance to do the right thing at the right time.

“Siguro in a sense, I think it proves my point, when you have to make a decision, you will not probably please everybody. One would hope the decision is based on firm facts and legal principles rather than the need to satisfy the public,” Aquino said.

Also ordered charged as Aquino’s co-accused were former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and former PNP-Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas Jr.

Aquino pointed out that during a discussion with his lawyers after the ombudsman’s ruling came out on Friday, it was made clear that he was charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide but this was dismissed for lack of probable cause.

“Was I ever charged with this usurpation of the anti-graft provision of talking about inducing subordinates to an act?” he asked.

Aquino said his lawyers told him he was not complained for these charges but it was the prerogative of the ombudsman to define the charges to be filed against him.

“There’s no complaint. And the complaint would normally be in the form of an affidavit of complaint to which you are asked to submit your counter affidavit and the facts presented by the complaint,” Aquino said.

“But since I wasn’t complained about with regards to usurpation, we never had the chance to rebut or refute any of the allegations,” he added.

Aquino said this was the reason he was surprised with the ombudsman’s ruling.

“The phrase would be misappreciation or perhaps you don’t know the facts as completely if they had given us the opportunity to respond,” Aquino said.

The former president maintained Purisima – suspended at the time the operation against two international terrorists was conducted in Mamasapano – was considered a “subject matter expert” and a good adviser, citing his background, including being part of the Special Action Force.

Forty-four members of the SAF were killed during the operation.

Aquino said he consulted Purisima on police matters as they had known each other for a long time and had built a certain level of trust.

He stressed Purisima would not just give him a usual report but a personal assessment of things he would be asking for.

The former president would not say if the Senate, which investigated the incident, was fair to him but he reiterated he was never given the chance to explain his side, even before the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police.

The ombudsman found Aquino liable of usurpation of authority for allowing Purisima to play a “major role” in Oplan Exodus, the SAF operation aimed to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman.

The ombudsman also said Aquino should be held liable for violation of Section 3 (a) of RA 3019, which prohibits a public official “to persuade, induce or influence another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority.”

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