Palace on lifting of TRO vs Aquino cases: We do not interfere with other branches
Malacanang maintained on Wednesday that it does not interfere with the judiciary following the Supreme Court's decision lifting the temporary restraining order on the trial before the Sandiganbayan against former President Benigno Aquino III in relation to the botched anti-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace has been notified about the latest development relative to the cases of graft and usurpation of authority filed against Aquino for the death of the 44 members of the Special Action Force in Mamasapano.
"In accordance with the policy that has long been practiced by this Administration, we refuse to comment on the action undertaken by the Supreme Court, which belongs to a separate and independent branch of government from ours. We cannot and we do not intend to interfere with the functions of other branches which are distinct from the Executive," said Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration would always give deference to and uphold the rule of law regardless of political and social stature of those involved in cases pending before the judiciary.
He said the Palace believes the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan could tackle the matter with independence pursuant to their respective mandates.
"As these institutions afford each citizen his or her constitutional guarantees under the Bill of Rights, we expect the latter to respect the proceedings and bow to the majesty of the law. We will, as usual, let the law take its course," said Panelo.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires, an appointee of Duterte, earlier ordered the withdrawal of graft and usurpation charges against Aquino.
The cases were filed against the former president under the leadership of Martires' predecessor, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, an Aquino appointee.
Families and relatives of the 44 SAF commandos have insisted that Aquino should instead be charged for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, which carries longer imprisonment.
Martires has said there was no sufficient ground and evidence to indict Aquino for graft and usurpation charges.
However, the withdrawal was "without prejudice" to the filing of appropriate charges against Aquino after the conduct of preliminary investigation.
The graft and usurpation charges have been pending before the Sandiganbayan.
With the high court's lifting of the TRO, the anti-graft court could decide on whether it would grant the Ombudsman's move to withdraw the cases against Aquino and allow filing of other possible charges.
Over 60 people, including the so-called SAF 44, died in the anti-terrorism operation on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, an area with armed groups, including the then Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Celerina Monte/DMS