Some families of SAF44 to file impeachment raps vs. Ombudsman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 6) - Some families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in the Mamasapano encounter in 2015 plan to file an impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of the 11 families, said that among the grounds for the complaint are culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

"Culpable violation because under the organic act or under the Constitution, ang mandato ng Ombudsman (the mandate of the Ombudsman) is to be the guardian of the people with respect to a public office being a public trust. Therefore, she should dispense justice with an even hand and an unbiased eye, which she is not doing," he explained.

He said Morales committed these violations when she downgraded the case of the SAF44 families from 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide to one count of usurpation of authority and one count of graft and corruption.

Topacio said Morales' move "is incongruous with the gravity of the case wherein 44 members of the Philippine National Police died because of the reckless imprudence of the former president."

Morales violated the Constitution by taking a long time to dispose cases, thereby violating the right to a speedy trial, he added.

"This Ombudsman probably has the record for the most number of cases dismissed recently because according to the Sandiganbayan, the Ombudsman violated the right of the accused for speedy trial," he said.

Topacio claimed at least two lawmakers have already confirmed to him that they will be endorsing the impeachment complaint against Morales.

"It appears to me that the calls to have the Ombudsman impeached is now snowballing because of recent developments. We are garnering more and more support in the Lower House…We have two or three already confirmed," he said.

Topacio said he expects more congressmen to come forward and endorse the complaint.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier said he wants Morales impeached for partiality and corruption.

He said he hoped the case could be filed next week, but the complainants are taking the time to make sure there are no loopholes.

"We are now being very careful because Congress sent a message that they are now going to be very strict when it comes to impeachment complaints with respect, not only to verification, but personal knowledge," he said.

Cases on Mamasapano encounter

Morales earlier filed criminal charges against former President Benigno Aquino for usurpation of authority under the Revised Penal Code and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in relation to the Mamasapano encounter.

However, the Ombudsman dismissed homicide charges against the former President because of lack of probable cause.  She said that what Aquino did wrong was to allow the suspended Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima to play a major role in the Mamasapano operation.

The Ombudsman put Purisima on preventive suspension in December 2014 because of an anomalous 2011 deal involving WerFast Documentary Agency, a courier company that delivers gun licenses directly to applicants.

Text messages presented at a Senate hearing in February 2015 showed Aquino and Purisima discussed the Mamasapano operation.  The SAF44 were killed after an encounter with Moro rebels in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao.