Ex-President Aquino's arraignment on Mamasapano charges reset

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) - The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has reset the arraignment of former President Benigno Aquino III over the bloody Mamasapano encounter in January 2015.

Aquino was supposed to enter a plea on Friday, but the arraignment was rescheduled for February 15 because of Aquino's pending motion to quash the charges against him, his lawyer, Romeo Fernandez said.

Aquino did not show up at the hearing and was only represented by his legal counsel.

Aquino is facing charges of usurpation of authority and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the deaths of 44 members of the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Special Action Forces, known as the SAF 44, on Jan. 25, 2015.

His co-accused, former SAF Commander Getulio Napeñas Jr. was also a no-show in Friday's scheduled hearing.

Former PNP Chief Alan Purisima was present for his pre-trial but it did not push through as well due to a pending motion for his charges to be dismissed.

The Ombudsman in November filed charges against Aquino for allowing Purisima to play a major role in the Mamasapano operation while under preventive suspension.

Aquino posted a P40,000 bail to secure his provisional liberty even as the Sandiganbayan was yet to order his arrest.

The Ombudsman earlier cleared Aquino of any liability, when it charged only Purisima, Napeñas, and nine other police officers in July 2015, when Aquino was still in power. In its July 14, 2017 decision, the Ombudsman said they were "co-conspirators".

The SAF 44 were killed after an encounter with Moro rebels in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao, despite a ceasefire. At least 18 rebels and five civilians were also killed in the botched operation that was meant to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan."

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.