Duterte agrees with Trillanes on Aquino case

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President Rodrigo Duterte (file photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday agreed with Senator Antonio Trillanes' view that former President Benigno Aquino III could not have usurped authority during the Mamasapano operations that killed 67 people including 44 Special Action Force Police officers.

Speaking before his departure from Vietnam, Duterte said Trillanes, one of his staunchest critics, had a "good point" when the latter said charging Aquino for usurpation of authority may set a bad precedent for future operations.

"Trillanes has a good point there. Yung usurpation of authority… actually, I don't know if I'm still good at my law. But you know, the President has the supervision and control. Supervision and control means he can overturn your decision, or will decide to exercise the function itself," Duterte said.

The President also said, "You cannot usurp what is inherently your duty." 

The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday filed charges against Aquino over the bloody Mamasapano encounter in 2015. The former president is facing criminal charges for usurpation of authority under the Revised Penal Code and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

READ: Criminal charges filed vs. ex-President Aquino over Mamasapano encounter

Duterte said as far as he's concerned, a president cannot usurp authority over institutions like the police and the military which he both heads.

"All those under the appointed officers, lahat 'yan sila under the control. Yung function ng police, function ng military (all of them are under the control of the President. The function of the police, the military) ... the President can always intervene, modify, amend, or change altogether your ideas," said Duterte.

"If he decides to do the police work himself, he is the commander in chief. He is the head of the government," he added.

Duterte said appointed officials such as Cabinet secretaries are "the alter ego" and "shadow" of the President.

Earlier, Trillanes said he did not believe there could be usurpation of authority by the commander in chief.

"So sa amin yung commander ikaw ang responsible. Kung pumalpak ka hindi mo pwedeng ituro sa presidente yung kapalpakan mo," Trillanes said.

[Translation: For us, it's the commander of the operation who is responsible. If te operation failed, you can't blame it on the President.]

According to Trillanes, failed operations might always be blamed on the President if commanders are allowed to point fingers at him.