MANILA – Malacanang said it respects the order of the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Sandiganbayan’s proceedings on the graft and usurpation of authority charges lodged against former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III for his alleged role in the botched Mamasapano police operation that killed 44 members of the elite Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF).

“We respect that order of the SC, noting that prosecution of case is handled by the Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a text message to Palace reporters Friday.

The arraignment was supposedly set on February 15.

The SC’s First Division has also issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Ombudsman's resolutions that junked the charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against Aquino, former PNP chief Alan Purisima, and former SAF chief Getulio Napenas Jr.

The relatives of SAF troopers who died in the botched Oplan Exodus three years ago in Mamasapano, Maguindanao had asked the SC to charge Aquino, Purisima and Napenas with 44 counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide instead of graft and usurpation of authority.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, on the other hand, also asked the High Court to issue a TRO to stop the Ombudsman from implementing its decision that downgraded Aquino’s case.

A total of 44 elite forces were killed when the PNP SAF carried out “Oplan Exodus” designed to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

Marwan was killed in the operation but an 11-hour bloody encounter between SAF troopers and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters had left 57 people dead, including the 44 SAF troopers. (PNA)