De Lima optimistic Aquino can defend self over Mamasapano charges

Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed belief that former President Benigno Aquino III will be able to defend himself before the court and prove his innocence over the controversial Mamasapano clash in January 2015.

De Lima, who stands by former president Aquino as he faces trial over his role in the anti-terrorist operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, said she is confident that truth and justice will prevail in the end.

"President Aquino, as Citizen Noynoy, will now have the opportunity to present his case before our tribunals, of how he, as President, made the difficult choice of ordering the capture of a most wanted terrorist, but with the possibility of casualties on the government side, as what eventually happened," she said in a Dispatch from Crame No. 195.

"I have no doubt that, armed with a firm conviction as to the merits or soundness of his judgment call in the light of then available information supplied to him and honorable as he is, PNoy is capable of defending himself, not only before the tribunals of justice, but more importantly, before the judgment of history and the people he so faithfully served," she added.

The Senator from Bicol made the statement after the Ombudsman charged Aquino with graft and usurpation of authority in relation with the Mamasapano massacre in 2015.

Aquino is facing one count each for violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and usurpation of official function as defined under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.

The Ombudsman reportedly accused Aquino of allowing Director General Alan Purisima, then suspended chief of the Philippine National Police, to participate in planning the operation of the anti-terrorist raid.

De Lima, who was justice secretary at the time of the incident, maintained that Aquino only did what he believed was best during the situation and for the people he served.

"The Mamasapano Tragedy is one of those 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' decisions a President makes. It was a choice between letting a terrorist bomber slip away once again to wreak more destruction on civilians, or capture him with the concomitant risks an operation such as his capture in hostile territory entails," she said.

"Do we even care how many hundreds of civilian lives were saved, at the cost of 44 of our bravest and noblest? Whether we like it or not, that is how our government asks our soldiers and our policemen to put their lives at risk, and if need be, to be the first to die, in order for us to live in peace," she added.

De Lima, who herself is awaiting her vindication over the trumped-up drug charges filed against her by the Duterte administration, said she only wishes vindication for Aquino.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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