Ombudsman probers clear Aquino in Mamasapano clash

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President Benigno Aquino III

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Office of the Ombudsman cleared President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday (July 22) of any possible criminal liability over the Mamasapano encounter that left 44 police commandos and over a dozen others dead.

Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan told reporters that a special panel of field investigators didn't find evidence that could link Aquino to the bloody encounter.

"The participation of the president did not amount to a criminal offense as he, in fact, ordered that they [the police] should coordinate the implementation of operations," Rafanan said.

He added that Aquino's role was neither "analogous to any of the impeachable offenses."

This developed after the Ombudsman gave the go-signal to field investigators to proceed with preliminary investigations  in connection with criminal and administrative complaints against former and current police officials — including former Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima and Dir. Getulio Napeñas — over Oplan Exodus.

Rafanan said that the Office's special team of probers were the ones who acted as complainants in these cases

Aside from members of the Special Action Force (SAF), reports said that some 17 to 18 Moro rebels and about five civilians also died during the January 25 operation to get international terrorists Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary. Hermino "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said on Thursday (July 23) that the Palace respected the ombudsman's decision.

Coloma also reiterated that the president's actions during the police operation were based on the laws of the land — and in fulfillment of his duty to run after terrorists.

CNN Philippines' Paola Palma and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.