Dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima on Thursday pleaded not guilty to his graft and usurpation of powers charges for his alleged role in the botched Mamasapano anti-terror raid.
Purisima attended his scheduled arraignment before the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division where he pleaded not guilty after his charges were read out to him.
“Not guilty, your honors,” Purisima told the court, standing upright like he would when he was a police general.
After the hearing, Purisima ignored reporters’ questions.
Sacked Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas, a co-accused in the case, is yet to be arraigned due to his pending motion to dismiss his charges for lack of probable cause.
The Mamasapano charges were filed before the Sandiganbayan on January 24 this year, or on the eve of the second anniversary of the carnage that resulted in the deaths of 44 elite cops in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman filed one count each of violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), as well as usurpation of authority or official function under the Revised Penal Code, against Purisima and Napeñas before the anti-graft court docket.
They were found criminally liable by the Ombudsman for the Jan. 25, 2015 anti-terror raid operation to take down international terrorist Marwan in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, which resulted in the slaughter of 44 elite cops after the PNP failed to coordinate early on with the military for fear of compromising the operation.
The firefight between the SAF cops and Moro fighters that took 12 hours also happened at the height of the government peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), members of which were involved in the battle.
The incident was dubbed by the Ombudsman as the “the biggest loss of a government elite force in history.”
The charges were filed after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales earlier denied the motions for reconsideration filed by the two for the Ombudsman’s resolution finding probable cause against them.
According to the charge sheet, they were charged with usurpation of official or public functions because Purisima, while under preventive suspension that was effective December 10, 2014, unlawfully and feloniously performed the functions of the PNP chief under the pretense of official position and without being legally entitled to do so.
Purisima allegedly conspired with Napeñas in participating in the mission planning and supervision of the botched Mamasapano operation dubbed “Oplan Exodus,” which was conducted from January 24 to 26, 2015 to take down Marwan and his deputy Basit Usman.
Purisima allegedly asked and received pre-operational updates from Napeñas, the overall commander of the operation and approved the final date of the operation and the time-on-target (TOT) coordination of the operation.
The prosecutors said the respondents committed the crime “fully knowing Purisima’s preventive suspension from office, to the damage of the public interest.”
Meanwhile, both were also charged with graft over the allegation that Purisima persuaded, induced or influenced the Napeñas who also allowed himself to be persuaded, induced or influenced to violate the PNP chain of command.
Napeñas also allowed himself to be influenced by Purisima to violate the preventive suspension order against Purisima, as well as a special order from then PNP officer in charge chief Leonardo Espina directing suspended officers to cease and desist from performing the duties and functions of their respective offices.
Purisima was also accused of giving instructions to, receiving reports and recommendation from, and approving the actions of Napeñas on the conduct and preparation of Oplan Exodus.
Purisima was likewise accused of easing out Espina and then Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II from the Oplan Exodus.
The prosecutors said Purisima and Napeñas committed the crime “both accused knowing fully well the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order, Espina’s special order,” even though it was Espina who had the authority to supervise the preparation for the operation, “to the damage and prejudice of the State.”
The bail recommended for graft is P30,000, while that of usurpation is at P10,000.
Purisima and Napeñas had earlier been found guilty of the administrative offenses of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
According to Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code, for a person to be liable for usurpation “there must be a clear showing that the person being charged had performed an act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine government, under pretense of official position, and without lawfully being entitled to do so.”
Meanwhile, Section 3(a) of the anti-graft law considers as a criminal act a public officer who persuades, induces or influences another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules or regulations.
Purisima had been liable for usurpation when he was actively involved in the planning stage of Oplan Exodus to take down Marwan, even though he was suspended from the PNP over a graft investigation involving an anomalous gun courier deal, for which he faces charges now.
Napeñas meanwhile was liable for following Purisima, acting as a cohort and violating the chain of command instead of reporting to Espina.
Morales said the graft indictment against the two stemmed from violations of the anti-graft law after “Purisima wielded his power and influence as Chief PNP, to induce Napeñas, who willingly allowed himself to be so induced, to violate the PNP chain of command.”
“(D)uring the period of Purisima’s suspension, he had no authority to perform the duties and functions, much less supervise and/or participate in the conceptualization, mission planning, and execution of a high risk police operation,” Morales said in her earlier resolution indicting the two for the offenses.
“(I)n short, Purisima was sending the unwritten yet visible message that he was, albeit he was not authorized to act and function as Chief PNP… (I)f Purisima had an iota of respect for the PNP Chain of Command, he should have informed, at the very least, of the details of the Plan Exodus during the turnover of his duties and functions to OIC-PNP Chief Espina,” Morales added.
Napeñas was indicted because his “taking orders from the suspended Purisima… can be construed as an act in agreement to commit the crime of usurpation of official functions with Purisima.”
“[Napeñas’] justification to heed such order—that Purisima was the Commander-in-Chief’s most trusted man and was allowed by the President to participate in the planning and execution of the Oplan—does not lie,” Morales said.
The Ombudsman found probable cause against the two even though it has absolved from accountability outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, who allowed his friend Purisima to participate in the planning of the operation.
Aquino has put the blame on Napeñas for disobeying his orders to coordinate with the military and police on the operation. He said he was misled by Purisima who disobeyed his orders.
The Ombudsman has said Napeñas’ adherence with the TOT concept—or the concept of coordinating with the military only after the elite cops were in the target destination—resulted in heavy casualties because of the delay in coordination.
The TOT also caused Napeñas to bypass the police chain of command and commit usurpation of powers when he coordinated with a suspended police chief instead.
In finding Napeñas guilty of the administrative offense of neglect of duty, Morales said Napeñas’ application of the TOT resulted in disastrous consequences, such as the sidestepping of the ongoing peace process with the MILF, whose fighters were engaged in a firefight with the elite cops.
“Clearly, in applying the TOT concept of coordination, Napeñas neglected to consider the consequences of the TOT concept vis-a-vis the needed protocols for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to effectively respond… Worse, Napeñas failed to consider the repercussions of Oplan Exodus on the ongoing peace process with the MILF,” the Ombudsman said.
“As it turned out, this crucial aspect of the operation materially contributed to the incurrence of heavy casualties,” it added. CDG