PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte again came to the defense of his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, who was charged Wednesday, November 8, with graft and usurpation of authority before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano carnage.
Duterte, in a pre-departure interview in Pasay City, stressed that Aquino did not commit usurpation of authority when he meddled in the botched operation carried out by members of Special Action Force personnel in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
The President said Aquino, as the highest elected official in the country then, merely wielded his executive powers to overrule the powers of state forces.
"On the usurpation of authority actually, I don't know if I'm still good with my law but you know, the President has the supervision and control. Supervision and control means he can overturn your decision or will decide to exercise the function itself," Duterte told reporters before flying to Vietnam to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
"All those under the appointed officers, all of them are under the control (of the president). The function of the police, the function of the military, the President can always intervene, modify, amend or change altogether your idea. If he decides to do the police work himself, he's the commander in chief, he's the head of the government insofar as the police is concerned," he added.
In July, Duterte branded as "silly" the anti-graft body's recommendation to lodge criminal charges against Aquino.
The President was also confident that the cases would not prosper because the bungled elite police force's operation was merely a "failed operation."
The Ombudsman filed on Wednesday cases against Aquino before the Sandiganbayan for Usurpation of Authority and violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices.
Duterte, however, maintained that Aquino did nothing wrong.
"If the main figure overrules the shadow, usurpation of authority, you cannot usurp what is inherently your duty," he said.
About 400 Special Action Force (SAF) members launched Oplan Exodus to serve standing warrants against infamous terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Ahmad Ukmad Uson.
The operation resulted in a deadly firefight that claimed the lives of 44 SAF commandos. (SunStar Philippines)