MANILA, Philippines — Detained Sen. Leila de Lima is confident that former President Benigno Aquino III will be able to defend himself before the court and prove his innocence over the 2015 controversial Mamasapano clash that took the lives of 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force.
“President Aquino, as Citizen Noynoy, will now have the opportunity to present his case before our tribunals, of how he, as President, made the difficult choice of ordering the capture of a most wanted terrorist, but with the possibility of casualties on the government side, as what eventually happened,” De Lima said on Monday in a dispatch from Camp Crame in Quezon City.
“I have no doubt that, armed with a firm conviction as to the merits or soundness of his judgment call in the light of then available information supplied to him and honorable as he is, PNoy is capable of defending himself, not only before the tribunals of justice, but more importantly, before the judgment of history and the people he so faithfully served,” she added.
Last November 10, the Sandiganbayan issued a hold departure order against the former chief executive after he posted a P40,000-bail in connection with the graft and usurpation of authority charges that were filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s office said Aquino “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” allowed in January 2015 then PNP chief Alan Purisima to participate in carrying out Oplan Exodus against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir also known as Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao even though the PNP director general was suspended at that time.
But De Lima, who was Department of Justice secretary at the time of the Mamasapano incident, maintained that Aquino “only did what he believed was best during the situation and for the people he served.”
“The Mamasapano tragedy is one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ decisions a President makes. It was a choice between letting a terrorist bomber slip away once again to wreak more destruction on civilians, or capture him with the concomitant risks an operation such as his capture in hostile territory entails,” she said.
“Do we even care how many hundreds of civilian lives were saved, at the cost of 44 of our bravest and noblest? Whether we like it or not, that is how our government asks our soldiers and our policemen to put their lives at risk, and if need be, to be the first to die, in order for us to live in peace,” added De Lima.