Aquino posts bail, placed on hold order over SAF 44

Former president Benigno Aquino III presents a slide show on the SAF operation in Mamasapano during a press conference at his residence on Times street in Quezon City Thursday.

MANILA — Former president Benigno Aquino III posted bail Thursday at the Sandiganbayan on charges of graft and usurpation of official functions in connection with the bloody Mamasapano police operation that left over 60 people dead in January 2015.

The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division clerk of court Dennis Pulma said Aquino was about to be arrested following a minute resolution earlier promulgated by the anti-graft court, finding probable cause to put him on trial and issue a warrant for his arrest.

The former president, in office from 2010 to 2016, said later in a press conference that he exercised his right to post bail.

Pulma said the warrant of arrest was prepared and signed by the justices of the Third Division, but it was no longer released to law enforcers since the former president arrived at the Sandiganbayan building shortly before 4 p.m. to post his P40,000 bail bond.

Pulma said a hold departure order was also issued yesterday and served to the Bureau of Immigration to prevent Aquino from leaving the country during the trial.

“The court issued a resolution finding probable cause and also to issue a warrant of arrest. But considering that the former president has already posted bail, what the court simply did was to set the cases for arraignment and pre-trial on Jan. 12, 2018 at 1:30 p.m.,” Pulma said.

The Third Division’s ruling came just a few hours after it was chosen to handle the cases against Aquino filed by the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday.

The Third Division, chaired by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, was chosen to handle the cases through a raffle held in the day.

Tang, an appointee of Aquino, gave assurance that her division will be fair in handling the cases.

“We will just apply the rules as we have done in the past, irrespective of the personalities involved,” Tang said.

She said her appointment by Aquino “will never influence whatever action that the court will take in the case.”

Arriving with his throng of supporters mostly clad in yellow, Aquino posted the P40,000 bail bond.

Aquino underwent the usual process of affixing his fingerprints and signatures and filling up his personal information sheet.

The former chief executive though submitted his own photographs instead of having his mug shots taken, Pulma said.

Aquino was accompanied by his sisters Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada and Viel Dee and as well as cousin, Sen. Bam Aquino, when he posted bail.

Aquino’s political allies Sen. Franklin Drilon, former congressman Niel Tupas Jr., former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, former presidential spokespersons Edwin Lacierda and Abigail Valte were also present to show their support.

After posting his bail, Aquino made a courtesy call to the chamber of Tang before leaving the Sandiganbayan building.
Aquino then went home and presided over a press conference in explaining his side.

The Office of the Ombudsman has accused Aquino of allowing suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to oversee the operation against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who was hiding in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The ombudsman had previously suspended Purisima over a separate graft case.

While the raid apparently succeeded in its objective of killing Marwan, a total of 60 people, including 44 SAF policemen, were killed in the firefight with Muslim rebels.

The ombudsman said Purisima violated the chain of command. This led to usurpation of official functions when he personally directed Oplan Exodus without authority from then acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina.

As for former SAF director Getulio Napeñas, his constant reporting and official dealings with Purisima notwithstanding the latter’s suspension and without the knowledge and approval of Espina, made him liable as a cohort of Purisima in usurping official functions.

Aquino lamented that some parties are taking advantage of the grief over the slain SAF policemen.

He blamed anew Napeñas for the botched police operation that led to their deaths.

Aquino reiterated in the press conference at his Quezon City residence that he was made to believe that the operation was coordinated with the military as he earlier instructed.

He said Napeñas had assured him that military units were available in the area of operation.

But when the fighting broke out between the Muslim rebels and raiding policemen, there were no military units in the area to assist.