(UPDATE 2 – 8:46 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan issued a hold departure order against Benigno Aquino III on Friday after the former President 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.
After posting bail and undergoing booking procedures, Aquino paid a courtesy call to Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, the presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan Third Division where the case of the former chief executive was raffled off Friday morning.
The arraignment and pre-trial of Aquino’s case were tentatively set on January 12, 2018, according to Sandiganbayan Third Division clerk of court Atty. Dennis Pulma.
The Ombudsman’s office said Aquino “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously” allowed in January 2015 then Philippine National Police 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.
The operation resulted in the death of 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force.
‘I gave my full trust’
After posting bail, Aquino held a press conference at his residence on Times Street in West Triangle, Quezon City.
He, however, did not delve into the technicalities of his case but discussed lengthily his efforts to ensure the safety of the SAF forces involved in the operation.
Aquino said he advised former SAF commander Getulio Napeñas not to push through with the operation if it would just result in pintakasi or the move of rebels and bandits to combine their forces and defeat government troops.
He said he had given his full trust to the PNP-SAF after it assured him that the operation would be carried out smoothly, not incur heavy losses, and had already been coordinated with the military and other concerned agency officials.
Aquino reiterated his previous stand that he was led by Napeñas to believe that proper coordination was done with the military regarding the 2015 operation to capture Zulkifli Abd Hir, also known as Marwan, and Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao
He said Napeñas gave him two “yes, Sir” when he insisted that the SAF head must coordinate with the military.
“Nagtiwala ako [I gave my trust]. Presumption of regularity in the absence of contrary information, siguro tama ‘yon [maybe it was right],” he said.
Thus after the botched operation, Aquino said he was surprised to find out that many of the officials who should have knowledge of Oplan Exodus, including former Department of Interior and Local Government chief Manuel “Mar” Roxas, didn’t know about it.
Also, the former chief executive defended Purisima, saying the latter did not lead the operation but was just consulted about it.
“Ako praktikal [I was practical]. Was he performing the role of chief PNP? Was he ordering anybody?” he said
‘We will face this, I didn’t get hospitalized’
Aquino said he was ready to face the charges filed against, adding that he neither fled nor gotten himself hospitalized to evade the charges slapped against him, insinuating the previous actions of some politicians who had faced similar charges.
“Haharapin namin lahat ito. Hindi naman ako umalis. Hindi naman ako nagpa-ospital at sasagutin namin ito [We will face all of this. I did not leave. I did not get hospitalized and we will answer this],” he said.
“Although pinipilit na ako na magpa-ospital, magpa-checkup, nandito kami at sasagutin namin [Although I was told to get a check-up at the hospital, we are here and we will answer for this],” the former President added.