MANILA, Philippines — The camp of former President Benigno Aquino III argued that he had the authority to consult former PNP chief Alan Purisima regarding Oplan Exodus in 2015.
Aquino is facing charges of graft and usurpation of official function over his involvement in the botched operation, which led to the death of 44 SAF commandos in an armed encounter with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The former president did not attend his arraignment at the Sandiganbayan on Friday. His counsel said that his presence is not needed due to his pending motion to quash, according to a report from GMA News.
In his motion, Aquino said that he had the right to lawfully exercise his presidential powers to utilize the services of Purisima for Oplan Exodus and during its implementation.
The Aquino camp argued that the former president had the authority to “communicate exclusively” with Purisima, who was then under preventive suspension over an allegedly anomalous deal with a courier service in 2011.
The motion also stated that Aquino had the power to “ease out” then-PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina and former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas from the Mamasapano operation.
The former president committed the aforementioned acts knowing fully well of the suspension order against Purisima and Espina's authority to oversee Oplan Exodus.
“All of these acts fell squarely within Mr. Aquino's powers, functions, and prerogatives as then President of the Philippines, and therefore, cannot be deemed as criminal acts,” the motion read.
The Aquino camp stressed that there was no element of deceit, fraud and bad faith on the former president's part when he consulted with Purisima despite the former's suspension. — Patricia Lourdes Viray