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Former Philippine President Aquino could face jail over police raid

The former president of the Philippines faces charges for a 2015 police raid that left 44 officers dead. Benigno Aquino was indicted for usurping authority and allowing a suspended police chief to run the fatal raid.

Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered criminal negligence charges against former President Benigno Aquino III for a 2015 operation that left 44 officers dead. During the raid, militants ambushed 400 police commandos sent to kill a Malaysian extremist. Aquino had entrusted police chief Alan Purisima - at the time suspended and facing corruption charges - with planning the operation to arrest a terror suspect in the town of Mamasapano, in Maguindanao province.

A Senate inquiry found that Purisima and Napenas failed to coordinate the operation with the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a rebel group that could have mediated. As a result of the carnage, the congress refused to pass a Muslim self-rule bill that would have crowned Aquino's efforts to bring lasting peace to the rebellion-torn Mindanao region, home to the Catholic nation's large Islamic minority. The congress could look at a new such bill within the next two weeks.

Carpio-Morales also plans to file charges against Purisima and another former official, Getulio Napenas.

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'Some erroneous conclusions'

Ernesto Abella, the spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte , hailed the "heroic sacrifice" of the slain police commandos after Carpio-Morales announced the charges. "It is his - and the nation's - hope to finally bring justice to the victims and families of the Fallen 44 and put closure to the issue as part of the healing process," Abella said, speaking for Duterte.

Aquino, president from 2010 to 2016, could face several years in prison if convicted. An aide said the former president planned to study the Ombudsman's decree in order to file a motion for reconsideration. "An initial reading shows that there may have been a misappreciation of some facts surrounding the incident, leading to some erroneous conclusions," the aide said in a statement.

The bloodbath, infamously known as the "Mamasapano Massacre," helped to turn public opinion against Aquino, who later unsuccessfully campaigned to prevent the election of Duterte as his successor. The new president has frequently raised the Mamasapano incident as proof of his predecessor's misdeeds. Duterte's supporters had also filed a complaint of "reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide" against Aquino, but Carpio-Morales dismissed that.

mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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