THE indictment of former President Benigno Aquino III was a mere "consuelo de bobo" (fool's comfort) since he was only charged with usurpation of legislative powers over the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Friday, June 22.
In a statement, Panelo said Aquino should have been slapped with either a criminal case of plunder or graft and corruption.
"While in the narrow sense the indictment of former President Benigno Aquino III is a welcome development or a push on [Duterte's] relentless campaign against graft and corruption, it must be noted however that charge is but a consuelo de bobo indictment," Panelo said.
"Given that it involves P36 billion of the people's money with the Supreme Court no less declaring that the disbursement was in violation of the Constitution, the crime charge should have been plunder or at the very least a case of graft and corruption," he added.
In a resolution dated May 22 and approved June 14, the Office of the Ombudsman found Aquino accountable for the implementation of DAP involving P72 billion in executive funds without congressional approval.
Last year, the Ombudsman also indicted Aquino for usurpation of authority and violation of anti-graft and corrupt practices act over the botched 2015 anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 police commandos were killed.
Panelo lamented that the present charge against Aquino was "a repeat of the anomaolous previous charge" against the latter, in connection with the Mamasapano fiasco.
"The present charge against the former President is a repeat of the anomalous previous charge against him arising out of the Mamasapano incident, where instead of being charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homecide, only a usurpation of authority was filed," he said.
"There must be a rectification of this omission and the process of reversing such indictments is in progress," he added.
Panelo remained confident that Aquino would face stronger charges.
"While sometime the wheels of justice grinds exceedingly slow, it does grind, and in the end justice will catch up on the perpetrators of the crime and reap their deserved punishment. Crime does not pay no matter your status in life," Panelo said. (SunStar Philippines)