AN appointee of former President Benigno Aquino will lead the hearing of his graft and usurpation of authority cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division, chaired by Aquino appointee Presiding Justice Amparo Caboteaje-Tang, was assigned to hear Aquino’s cases that stemmed from his involvement in the plotting of police operations in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Aquino yesterday went to the Sandiganbayan to post bail.
He was accompanied by his sisters, cousin Sen. Bam Aquino, ally Sen. Franklin Drilon and supporters.
The former president opted to post bail even before the graft court could determine if there was probable cause to order his arrest.
Cabotaje-Tang assured the public of fair and just trial in the cases of Aquino and his co-accused, sacked Police Director Alan Purisima and former Director of the Special Action Force Getulio Napeñas.
It was Aquino who appointed Cabotaje-Tang as Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice in 2013.
“We will just apply the rules as we have done in the past, irrespective of the personality involved. Lahat dito naging appointee ng different Presidents, meron kami, more than just our gratefulness to those who appointed us, we have a sworn duty and we should, that should be the foremost consideration, to render justice as justice should be dispensed without fear or favor,” Cabotaje-Tang said.
The Office of the Ombudsman has filed one count of graft and usurpation of authority against Aquino for allowing Purisima, who was at that time suspended over another graft case, to execute Oplan Exodus.
The operation was intended to get international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan who was allegedly hiding on the turf of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
While the SAF successfully killed Marwan, 44 of its commandos were later brutally slain by joint forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Independent Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Aside from Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez, an appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte, is a division member, while another Aquino appointee, Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, sits as a special division member.
According to Cabotaje-Tang the division will see if the case against Aquino may be consolidated with the on-going cases against Purisima and Napeñas pending before the court’s 4th Division.