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Sandigan grants Ombudsman's bid to drop graft, usurpation raps vs Aquino.

The Sandiganbayan has granted the Office of the Ombudsman's request to withdraw charges filed against former President Benigno Aquino III for graft and usurpation of authority in relation to the botched Mamasapano operation in 2015.

In a resolution released on Thursday, the Fourth Division said that the charges against Aquino were dropped as the present cases lack any evidence to push proceedings against him.

'Considering that the records of the present case are bereft of any evidence that would merit further proceedings as against accused Aquino for the charges [...] the Court finds that the dismissal of the said cases is indeed warranted,' the anti-graft court said.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires filed the motion to withdraw last July 2019, saying that seating Presidents could not be held liable for usurpation as they have jurisdiction of those under the executive branch, including police officers.

Aquino was charged in 2016 for his participation in the Mamasapano incident, where 44 police commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF) regiment were killed during an operation to neutralize international terrorists bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias 'Marwan', and Basit Usman.

The former president supposedly coordinated with dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, who was then placed under preventive suspension by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

The hearing for the withdrawal was held last July 5, but the Fourth Division chose not to discuss the merits of the case because the Supreme Court has suspended the trial of Aquino case.

It was lifted last August 7.

Martires said that they do not intend to file additional charges, respecting the decision of his predecessor Morales to turn down homicide complaints against Aquino. However, he also clarified that the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) - the group behind the initial cases - are free to file other charges.

VACC agreed with Martires' decision to withdraw the charges, saying that the former Ombudsman intended to file charges that were meant to fail.

However, the lawyer of former SAF chief Maj. Gen. Getulio Napenas questioned why only Aquino was absolved of the charges, and not the other accused.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 22, 2019
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