Ombudsman affirms criminal charges vs Aquino over Mamasapano

Updated with statements from the resolution, as well as statements from Abi Valte and VACC Chair Dante Jimenez.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The Ombudsman junked on Thursday former President Benigno Aquino III's appeal to dismiss criminal charges against him for his role in the deadly Mamasapano encounter in January 2015.

In a 27-page resolution, the Ombudsman ruling read: "After a considered evaluation of the arguments raised by the movants vis a vis the evidence on record, the Office finds no cogent reason to reverse or modify the assailed Resolution."

 

Abigail Valte, Aquino's former presidential spokesperson, said the former President will meet with his legal team this afternoon "to determine his next course of action."

 

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Valte said the camp of Aquino stands by its statement last July, saying there may have been a "misappreciation of some facts" by the Ombudsman.

Aquino filed an appeal on July 19, following a July 14 resolution of the Ombudsman, ordering the filing of criminal charges against Aquino for usurpation of authority under the Revised Penal Code and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

However, the Ombudsman dismissed homicide charges against the former President because of lack of probable cause.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said what Aquino did wrong was to allow then-Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima to play a major role in the Mamasapano operation despite the official being under preventive suspension.

The Ombudsman suspended Purisima in December 2014 due to an anomalous 2011 deal involving WerFast Documentary Agency, a courier company tasked with delivering gun licenses directly to applicants.

"There is no gainsaying that President Aquino was fully aware that the Office of the Ombudsman had placed Purisima under preventive suspension at that time," Morales said.

Text messages presented at a Senate hearing in February 2015 showed Aquino and Purisima discussed the operation on January 25.

Forty-four members of the PNP's Special Action Forces (SAF), known as the SAF 44, were killed that day after an encounter with Moro rebels in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao, despite a ceasefire.

Morales said suspended public officials should be barred from performing any public function or meddling with the affairs of the government.

If found guilty, Aquino faces imprisonment of up to 10 years, with perpetual disqualification from public office.

Meanwhile, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chair Dante Jimenez said it will wait for Ombudsman Morales to elevate the charges against Aquino. 

"And now this kind of decision was rendered by Ombudsman Morales? Obviously to protect the former President, so we denounce it practically. Even if they will be charged by a lesser offense again, and again, it is so unjust," Jimenez said in an interview with CNN Philippines. In August, the VACC slammed the Ombudsman's decision on the case. 

"We'll be consulting with the families, by the way, on their reaction on this. They cannot accept the downgrading of the charges," he added.

Jimenez is also seeking the families' support in filing an impeachment complaint against Morales,  for downgrading the charges against Aquino.

Read: Ex-President Aquino faces criminal raps over Mamasapano encounter, cleared of homicide

President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized the Ombudsman's charges, saying on July 18 that her filing against his predecessor is "meant to fail."

A Senate investigation in 2015 found Aquino responsible for the botched operation.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producers VJ Bacungan and Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.