PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK

FILIPINO TERRORIST USMAN HOPPING FROM ONE AREA TO ANOTHER IN MAGUINDANAO


USMAN-- Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, wounded in the bloody Jan. 25 encounter in Mamasapano, is moving from one swampy area to another in the province to avoid detection, sources revealed yesterday. Some villagers, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said a moneyed suspect in the infamous 2009 Maguindanao massacre has been providing Usman with food and medicine for the wounds he sustained during the encounter with Special Action Force (SAF) policemen in Barangay Inog-og in Mamasapano. READ MORE...

ALSO: Lack of leadership skills exposed


President Benigno Aquino III answers questions from the media during his televised address to the nation late last month on the Mamasapano incident. Ryan Lim / Malacanang Photo Bureau
“IF you are the president of a company composed of, say, 8,000 employees, can you control all of your people?” That’s the statement President Noy supposedly made in answer to a question from the wife of a police commando who was killed in the Mamasapano encounter. The question was why P-Noy failed to control the situation in Mamasapano when he had the authority as commander in chief of the military and the police. That answer betrayed his lack of leadership skills. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Groups call for mass resignation of top gov’t officials


TINGTING CONJUANGCO --At Edsa, the groups were joined by Peping and Ting-ting Conjuangco, the President’s uncle and aunt. Also seen at the rally was whistleblower Jun Lozada.
MANILA, Philippines — Various groups gathered at the Our Lady of Edsa Shrine on Sunday to call for the ouster of President Benigno Aquino III and other government officials following the Mamasapano incident. The groups, who identified themselves under the “Edsa 2/22 coalition,” asked for the resignation of Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte and their colleagues in Congress in order to enforce “system and reform change.” “We are calling for their resignation. They should follow their conscience. The country will face a grim future if they won’t resign,” said Atty. Jose Malvar Villegas, founder of Citizen’s Crime Watch. READ MORE...

ALSO: Uncle Peping wants Aquino out


Former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., an uncle of President Aquino, admitted that he was among those pushing for change in the country’s leadership but claimed that the initiative was neither a prelude to a coup nor a military takeover. INQUIRER PHOTO / RODEL ROTONI Asked in his residence in Makati City if he was the rich businessman referred to by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago as the one behind the alleged coup plot, Cojuangco said: “No I’m not because I’m not in favor of a coup. I am against a military takeover. But I am in favor of major reforms or change in leadership, especially in the last crucial 16 months before the 2016 elections.” Cojuangco’s idea of change jibes with the call of Gonzales for the establishment of a “transition government” through a National Transition Council (NTC). CONTINUE READING...

ALSO In the Know: LGUs give generously to families of SAF commandos

On Jan. 30, the city council of Manila passed a resolution approving the release of P5 million from the 2015 budget of the Office of the Mayor as financial assistance to the families of the Special Action Force (SAF) men killed and wounded in the Jan. 25 clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province. The resolution authorized Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to give P100,000 each to the families of the 44 fallen SAF men and P50,000 each to the families of the wounded commandos.
On Feb. 18, the Makati City government formally donated P100,000 each in financial assistance as well as scholarship grants to the families of the Fallen 44. READ MORE...


ALSO: Mass protests for Aquino ouster start


League of Filipino Students February · Edited · · PANAWAGAN SA LAHAT NG KABATAAN! Sa, darating na February 27, tayo na't mag-walk out sa mga klase at ipanawagan ang pagbaba sa pwesto ni Aquino! Kumilos para sa hustisya at pananagutan sa Mamasapano Operation! Tumindig laban sa pagtaas ng matrikula at iba pag bayarin! #NoynoyResign #YouthDayofRage  Hundreds of students on Sunday staged a “unity walk for truth and accountability” to add heat to the growing public outrage over the killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao last month. Wearing armbands and shirts printed with “Truth and Accountability,” a message obviously addressed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, some 300 students started their walk at 6 a.m. from Luneta Park to Ermita Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of the massacred police officers. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: PNoy scolds SAF widows


Meeting with the widows. President Benigno Aquino III meets with the
families of the 44 police commandos who were killed during a clash
with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25. The
meeting was held the the police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Malacañang Photo Bureau
MEETING for the second time with the families of the police commandos slain in the secret Mamasapano operation on Jan. 25, President Benigno Aquino III again grieved the bereaved families when he scolded them for needling him about justice for their slain loved ones. Aquino was apparently disturbed by the repeated questions and blurted out: “Anong gusto ninyo, kunan namin ng fingerprints ang lahat ng MILF? [What do you want us to do, get the fingerprints of all members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?]” The remark, Taberna said, angered the families who were growing impatient at the slow pace of the investigation. READ FULL REPORT....


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Usman hopping from one area to another in Maguindanao


Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman

MAGUINDANAO, FEBRUARY 22, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By John Unson - Filipino terrorist Abdul Basit Usman, wounded in the bloody Jan. 25 encounter in Mamasapano, is moving from one swampy area to another in the province to avoid detection, sources revealed yesterday.

Some villagers, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said a moneyed suspect in the infamous 2009 Maguindanao massacre has been providing Usman with food and medicine for the wounds he sustained during the encounter with Special Action Force (SAF) policemen in Barangay Inog-og in Mamasapano.

Usman, an ethnic Maguindanaon, was said to have undergone training in handling of explosives and fabrication of improvised bombs in Kandahar, Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan in the 1990s.

Muslim community leaders said Usman, known in Mamasapano as “Teng,” was indeed wounded in an encounter with SAF operatives that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

Marwan’s hideout in Barangay Inog-og is located some 50 meters away from Usman’s shanty.

“He is treating his wounds with antibiotics supplied by a benefactor, someone who was implicated in the Maguindanao massacre,” one of the sources said.

Usman was known in Mamasapano as a close aide of Marwan. Together they trained more than 300 recruits in the past three years.

“Before Jan. 25, he (Usman) was always at the market at Shariff Aguak to buy food supplies for Marwan as if he is not a wanted person,” one villager revealed.

The public market of Sharif Aguak, the old provincial capital of Maguindanao, is near the provincial police office and the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade.

A barangay official said Marwan was buried in Dasikil, an agricultural area in Mamasapano near Rajah Buayan town.

“He was buried there a day after he was killed by policemen,” said the source.

Local officials in Rajah Buayan said residents of Dasikil had confirmed Marwan was indeed buried in an unmarked grave in the area.


INQUIRER

Lack of leadership skills exposed Ramon Tulfo @inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net
12:46 AM | Saturday, February 21st, 2015


President Benigno Aquino III answers questions from the media during his televised address to the nation late last month on the Mamasapano incident. Ryan Lim / Malacanang Photo Bureau

“IF you are the president of a company composed of, say, 8,000 employees, can you control all of your people?”

That’s the statement President Noy supposedly made in answer to a question from the wife of a police commando who was killed in the Mamasapano encounter.

The question was why P-Noy failed to control the situation in Mamasapano when he had the authority as commander in chief of the military and the police.

That answer betrayed his lack of leadership skills.

***

The woman who posed the question to the President, Janet Carap, widow of PO2 Peterson Carap, would have been a better leader than P-Noy had the two swapped places.

Carap said: “If I were to answer his question, I would say yes because you are the leader. You should have control over your people.”

Touché!

No matter how big an organization is, the person at the top of the heap should take the rap for the failure of the people at the bottom.

As US President Truman said, “The buck stops here,” referring to himself, if something went wrong with his administration.

Had P-Noy taken the blame for the Mamasapano fiasco instead of passing it to Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked chief of the elite Special Action Force, he would never have been asked that difficult question.

And his lack of leadership skills wouldn’t have been exposed.

***

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte has announced he will run for President in the 2016 elections to “save the republic.”

He will surely win over the current survey front-runner, Vice President Jojo Binay, because voters now already have a better choice.

Unlike Binay, Duterte has never been accused of corruption while in office.

His only flaw, which the Silent Majority considers a virtue, is eliminating incorrigible criminals in his city.

When he becomes President, he will solve, among others, the country’s drug problem.

Davao City is practically drug-free because of Duterte.

If you are a parent who is worried that the drug problem might affect your children in high school or college, you will surely vote for Duterte.

***

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala ordered Regina Bautista Martin, administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), to act on a complaint over the refusal of Batangas Sugar Central Inc. to release stocks of sugar belonging to a sugar firm.

The sugar firm, Dynamic Triple C Marketing Corp., had complained to my program “Isumbong mo kay Tulfo” that Batangas Sugar Central, which mills sugar for traders, refused to release the firm’s stock of sugar.

Harvested sugar in Southern Luzon is milled and stocked at Batangas Sugar in Balayan, a private entity solely authorized by the SRA.

My program made representations with the agriculture department, which has supervision over the SRA, for the release of the sugar stock of Dynamic after we found the complaint valid.

Based on the representation of my program, Alcala ordered through the SRA the release of Dynamic’s sugar stock.

But Batangas Sugar Central Inc. has disobeyed the SRA.

Upon investigation, I found that the sugar central had already sold Dynamic’s stock to other entities.

The SRA is liable for the theft of Dynamic’s stock by the sugar central.


INQUIRER

Groups call for mass resignation of top gov’t officials Aries Joseph Hegina
@inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net 3:07 PM | Sunday, February 22nd, 2015


TINGTING CONJUANGCO

MANILA, Philippines — Various groups gathered at the Our Lady of Edsa Shrine on Sunday to call for the ouster of President Benigno Aquino III and other government officials following the Mamasapano incident.

The groups, who identified themselves under the “Edsa 2/22 coalition,” asked for the resignation of Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte and their colleagues in Congress in order to enforce “system and reform change.”

“We are calling for their resignation. They should follow their conscience. The country will face a grim future if they won’t resign,” said Atty. Jose Malvar Villegas, founder of Citizen’s Crime Watch.

He said that their group is not backing any incumbent government official in the event of Aquino’s resignation as it will just follow the provision on presidential succession prescribed in the Constitution.

“We are backing no one. We are also calling for the resignation of Binay, Drilon, and Belmonte if they love the country,” Villegas said.

The groups are supporting the establishment of a transition government following the mass resignation of government officials.

The groups staged a motorcade which traveled to the cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay and Manila before they conducted a program at Edsa shrine where they clashed with the police.

At Edsa, the groups were joined by Peping and Ting-ting Conjuangco, the President’s uncle and aunt. Also seen at the rally was whistleblower Jun Lozada.


INQUIRER

Uncle Peping wants Aquino out Arlyn dela Cruz, Christine O. Avendaño, Tina G. Santos | Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:50 AM | Wednesday, February 18th, 2015


Former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., an uncle of President Aquino, admitted that he was among those pushing for change in the country’s leadership but claimed that the initiative was neither a prelude to a coup nor a military takeover. INQUIRER PHOTO / RODEL ROTONI

Asked in his residence in Makati City if he was the rich businessman referred to by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago as the one behind the alleged coup plot, Cojuangco said: “No I’m not because I’m not in favor of a coup. I am against a military takeover. But I am in favor of major reforms or change in leadership, especially in the last crucial 16 months before the 2016 elections.”

Cojuangco’s idea of change jibes with the call of Gonzales for the establishment of a “transition government” through a National Transition Council (NTC).

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV earlier linked Gonzales, also a former defense secretary of the Arroyo administration, to an alleged plot to unseat Aquino amid public anger over a disastrous police operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25 that led to the death of 44 police commandos.

Since December 2014, the NTC has been active in gathering 10 million signatures nationwide in support for the call for the President to resign or to step down.

Led by former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad and Gonzales, the NTC said Aquino was unfit for the presidency due to his “incompetence and insensitivity.” The NTC said it could take over the government in a “caretaker capacity.”

Interim government

Upon the resignation of the President and his Cabinet, Gonzales said in a phone interview that the council would try to establish an interim government and fix the electoral system as it believed that this had “failed to elect our leaders.”

It will be the bishops and other religious leaders who would serve as “moral advisers’’ of the council, he said.

Cojuangco, a brother of the late President Corazon Aquino, said the calls for major changes in leadership and in governance, which he claimed had earned the support of key sectors, gained momentum after the police operation in Mamasapano.

Lapse in leadership

Cojuangco said the incident was a glaring lapse in leadership, accountability and transparency.

“I believe God’s hand is moving in favor of major reforms and change that this country needs… As I said many had thought that everything was planned in Edsa I and Edsa II. But it was God’s hand. Nobody knew that things would lead to [changes in the country’s leadership] but we prepared. The two events are like this one. It’s time,” Cojuangco said.

He noted that the social atmosphere today was similar to the unrest that led to Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986 that toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Edsa People Power II that unseated in 2001 then President Joseph Estrada who was facing an impeachment trial on corruption charges.

Cojuangco has not publicly admitted that he is calling for his nephew to resign. “I will talk to him,” he said when asked whether he wanted the President to step down.

At a chance encounter in a restaurant, the President and his uncle almost had a chance to sit down and talk. Cojuangco said he believed his nephew knew what he was doing. “He told me, ‘Uncle Joe, bising-bisi tayo ah (you’re too busy these days).”

“He knows that what I am doing is well within the Constitution because it’s within the people’s power to seek and clamor for change,” the former lawmaker said.

At a forum in Manila, Gonzales said, “I will not engage in a coup and I will never support a coup because that is against my personal principle.”

“Coups don’t succeed in the Philippines. There have been many attempts in the past but these were unsuccessful. And when a coup fails, it creates more division,” he said.

Usual suspects

However, Gonzales said he knew of people who were scheming to remove the President. “Two to three groups are thinking and preparing. These are the usual suspects,” he said but he refused to name names.

“Many are talking in whispers, holding meetings,” he added.

Gonzales hinted that among those planning a coup could be within the President’s own circle of friends to make his stay in power longer.

Term extension

Asked what he meant with that statement, he said: “The President should watch his back. But who knows he himself might be involved.

“How do you extend your term? During the time of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I was the one being blamed, remember?

“Once you are in power, how [will you] sustain it? I was there, you know. It was very tempting,” he said.

Gonzales said the NTC was supporting the call of religious leaders for Aquino to step down and let a council take over the country.

5 bishops

On its website, the NTC describes itself as “an ecumenical and interfaith collective that works for the common good of Philippine society through rapid and comprehensive systems of change.”

Gonzales said he was supportive of the bishops, both Catholic and Protestant, who were calling for a new government.

At least five Catholic bishops have called on the President to “step down” because they believe he is no longer fit for the presidency.

They include Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Archbishop Romulo Tolentino de la Cruz of Zamboanga province, Archbishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, Archbishop Filomeno Bactol of Naval and Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao province.

Also supporting the groups’ stand are Bishop Butch Belgica of the Christians Bishops of the Philippines and Pastor Arthur Corpus of the United Church of Manila.

“We want him to step down,” Arguelles said at the same forum. The prelate clarified, however, that his group was not singling out Aquino as it was also asking other government officials to do the same.

“Not only President Aquino. All the guilty. All those who destroyed our country… Let us elect another set of leaders,” Arguelles said.

Arguelles also assured the public that the group would not support any kind of coup d’etat to oust the government. “We are not ousting. We want them to step down. We are not for violent change or for a military takeover,” he added.

People power to happen

While the possibility of a military coup is “very low,” another “people power” is not far-fetched, Gonzales said. “A people power is not planned. It just happens. I think a people power will happen… soon.”

“Before the Mamasapano incident nobody wanted P-Noy out, but things have changed after the incident. Some people were saying the only problem is who will replace him. Let’s wait for one or two more blunders from Malacañang, maybe [people power] will already happen,” Gonzales said.

Cojuangco, who helped his nephew during the presidential campaign in 2010, said he was not against the President. “What I am doing is for the country.”

Cojuangco’s wife, Margarita (also known as “Tingting”), is more expressive of her disgust with the President. “The indignation that we felt for the death of Ninoy (former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., the President’s father) is the same. One was killed, the other had people killed,” Tingting said, referring to the death of the 44 police commandos.

Tingting, a former president of Philippine Public Safety College who knew most of the officers who died in Mamasapano, was also among those who saw the bodies of commandos.

“I saw them all and those poor boys were just left there to die. The President is not telling the truth and to give justice to the Fallen 44, we must do everything to unearth the truth,” she said.

De Castro, Marcos

Former Vice President Noli de Castro laughed off rumors that he was part of a destabilization plot against the Aquino administration, saying those who were spreading such talk just wanted to divert the attention of the public from the so-called Mamasapano fiasco.

De Castro, a broadcast journalist, denied knowledge of the Movement for National Salvation calling for the resignation of all government officials to give way to a new federal type of government.

He said those floating the coup plot idea merely wanted to save the President from further criticisms because of the Mamasapano incident.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also denied that his political party was involved in a plan to ask the President and other officials to step down.

“The KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) is not involved in anything… The KBL exists, right now, only exists on paper,” Marcos said.–With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan, DJ Yap, Cynthia D. Balana and Leila B. Salaverria in Manila and Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Inquirer Visayas


INQUIRER

In the Know: LGUs give generously to families of SAF commandos Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:21 AM | Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

On Jan. 30, the city council of Manila passed a resolution approving the release of P5 million from the 2015 budget of the Office of the Mayor as financial assistance to the families of the Special Action Force (SAF) men killed and wounded in the Jan. 25 clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province.

The resolution authorized Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to give P100,000 each to the families of the 44 fallen SAF men and P50,000 each to the families of the wounded commandos.

On Feb. 18, the Makati City government formally donated P100,000 each in financial assistance as well as scholarship grants to the families of the Fallen 44.

Housing assistance packages worth P300,000 each were also set aside for the loved ones of SAF members killed or wounded in the clash.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. handed out the checks and announced that the children of slain police troopers may enroll in any course of their choice at the city-run University of Makati.

Froilan Kampitan, assistant general manager of the National Housing Authority (NHA), added that the families of the slain or wounded SAF members will each get P300,000 worth of housing assistance.

Kampitan said the assistance could come in the form of a house and lot. The house would have a typical area of 33 square meters, with the lot having a minimum size of 70 square meters.

The Makati mayor also handed out P100,000 in financial aid from the city government to the 15 SAF survivors during his visit to the Philippine National Police General Hospital on Feb. 8.

Mandaluyong City also allotted over P1 million in cash assistance through a resolution drafted by Councilor Charisse Abalos, donating P20,000 each to the families of the slain SAF men and P10,000 each to the wounded members of the elite police team.

In Quezon City, Councilors Alexis Herrera, Lena Marie Juico and Dorothy Delarmente pushed for a similar resolution setting the amount at P15,000 per family.


MANILA TIMES

Mass protests for Aquino ouster start February 22, 2015 7:49 pm


League of Filipino Students February · Edited · · PANAWAGAN SA LAHAT NG KABATAAN! Sa, darating na February 27, tayo na't mag-walk out sa mga klase at ipanawagan ang pagbaba sa pwesto ni Aquino! Kumilos para sa hustisya at pananagutan sa Mamasapano Operation! Tumindig laban sa pagtaas ng matrikula at iba pag bayarin! #NoynoyResign #YouthDayofRage

Hundreds of students on Sunday staged a “unity walk for truth and accountability” to add heat to the growing public outrage over the killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao last month.

Wearing armbands and shirts printed with “Truth and Accountability,” a message obviously addressed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, some 300 students started their walk at 6 a.m. from Luneta Park to Ermita Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of the massacred police officers.

The students called for the resignation of the president whom they described as incompetent and a liar for allegedly hiding vital information on the January 25 encounter between the SAF and combined members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Some of the students also wore t-shirts printed with “Nasaan ang Pangulo?” a message to the chief executive who obviously failed to satisfy the cry for justice from the families, relatives and friends of the Fallen 44.

Various groups also gathered at the Our Lady of Edsa Shrine on Sunday to call for the ouster of Aquino.

The groups belonging to the “Edsa 2/22 coalition” said Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte and their colleagues in Congress should also step down to enforce “system and reform change.”

Jose Malvar Villegas, founder of Citizen’s Crime Watch, warned that the country will face a bleak future if these officials do not resign.

Meanwhile, labor groups under the banner of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), and Sanlakas BMP-PLM-Sanlakas expressed their unity and support to political forces calling for the ouster of Aquino.

“Noynoy deserves to be ousted, not just because of allegations about his incapacity to hold the highest office, but because he symbolizes the interests of landlords and capitalists whose greed for power and profit cause the misery and poverty of the Filipino majority,” BMP-PLM-Sanlakas said in a statement.

Jim Pilapil and Jing Villamente


MANILA STANDARD

Second Meetnig: PNoy scolds SAF widows By Francisco Tuyay, Joyce Pangco Pañares | Feb. 20, 2015 at 12:01am

Journalists barred from Crame meet


Meeting with the widows. President Benigno Aquino III meets with the
families of the 44 police commandos who were killed during a clash
with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25. The
meeting was held the the police headquarters in Camp Crame.
Malacañang Photo Bureau

MEETING for the second time with the families of the police commandos slain in the secret Mamasapano operation on Jan. 25, President Benigno Aquino III again grieved the bereaved families when he scolded them for needling him about justice for their slain loved ones.

Aquino made an unscheduled visit to the headquarters of the Philippine National Police Wednesday night to check on the government assistance given to the families of the 44 slain police commandos.

Not all of the families of the 44 slain police commandos were present during the meeting, but Aquino, who arrived a little before 6 p.m., talked to each of the families gathered at the PNP Multipurpose Center, and left at midnight.

However, a representative of one of the families told broadcaster Anthony Taberna of radio station dzMM that the one-on-one talks turned into an open forum where the families repeatedly asked pointed questions about how the government will deliver justice for their slain loved ones.

Aquino was apparently disturbed by the repeated questions and blurted out: “Anong gusto ninyo, kunan namin ng fingerprints ang lahat ng MILF? [What do you want us to do, get the fingerprints of all members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?]”

The remark, Taberna said, angered the families who were growing impatient at the slow pace of the investigation.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. denied that there was such an incident, but journalists who were barred from covering Aquino’s dialogue with the families said they could hear loud and heated words from women from behind the closed dooes of the PNP Multipurpose Center.

“We heard some raising of voices inside the room,” one of the journalists present said, but he could not make out what the words were.

PNP officials present declined to provide details, saying only that the families were there to get the benefits due them.

Several Cabinet officials, inlcuding Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, and National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz, preceded Aquino’s arrival.

Also present were acting Health Secretary Janette Garin, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva.

The visit was not on the President’s original schedule, and Camp Crame officials were taken by surprise.

After Coloma denied the incident, the Palace issued a that only said the bereaved families “also had the chance to raise to the President other concerns.”

The Palace said Aquino was there to ensure the government is meeting its commitments and to check the status of the assistance being provided by the concerned agencies to the bereaved families.

The assistance being given to the relatives of the slain SAF troopers includes employment, education, housing, health, and livelihood, apart from the monetary assistance from the President’s Social Fund.

Aquino and the relatives of the fallen policemen had their first meeting on Jan. 30 at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. During the meeting, the families shared with the President their requests for assistance.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Aquino made an accounting of what he knows of the Mamasapano debacle during his visit with the grieving families, speaking with the families of 42 of the 44 slain police commandos.

“The President allotted time to listen to the sentiments of the families of the fallen SAF 44. They continue to ask for clarification on what really happened, so the President gave an accounting of what he knows and what he understood to have happened in Mamasapano,” Coloma said.

He said Aquino would decide if another national address were required “at the right time.”

He asked for understanding from the public, saying the President is listening to his allies and critics alike, but would like to first see the complete report of the police board of inquiry.

Calls for Aquino’s resignation have snowballed, the latest of which came from members of the academe banding together to launch the Save Our Nation, Aquino Resign Movement.

“This only goes to show that we have a vibrant democracy where differing opinions are allowed. We understand there are some sectors who are angry or who are losing patience and faith in the government because of what happened in Mamasapano,” Coloma said.

“But we trust that once the truth is unmasked, we will have a healing process and a determination to face this challenge as a stronger republic,” he added.

Aquino earlier admitted receiving news on the Mamasapano clash in the morning of Jan. 25 while he was in Zamboanga City, but his Cabinet secretaries and various police and military officials who attended congressional hearings on the Mamasapano incident would not say who informed the President of the carnage.

“We are all tired since Sunday. It was early morning when I was informed of the result of the operation against Marwan. And while we were discussing the Zamboanga bombing, reports (on the Mamasapano clash) were coming in,” Aquino told SAF members on Jan. 31 at Camp Bagong Diwa.

But Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces chief Gen. Pio Catapang and various officials from the military and the police have testified before the Senate hearing that they did not inform the President of the clash while they were all in Zamboanga City.

Resigned PNP chief director general Alan Purisima said he would need to seek clearance from the President before disclosing any information on what happened in Zamboanga City.

Coloma earlier said there was no effort to hide any vital information on the clash from the public.

“We are guided by the principles of transparency and accountability,” he said.

In the House of Representatives, the independent minority bloc led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said there was nothing wrong if the United States extended help to the Mamasapano operation that killed international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.

Romualdez said there was no need for the Palace to hide the alleged US involvement, as there was nothing unusual for one country to receive help from an ally for a counter-terrorism campaign.

The congressman recalled that he even sought help from the US government after super typhoon Yolanda devastated Tacloban City in November 2013.

“It’s the height of stupidity not to ask for help,” Romualdez said. “It’s a global nation that we live in today.”

The head of the police board of inquiry, Director Benjamin Bagalong of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has expressed willingness to allow the panel to interview MILF fighters to shed light on the Jan. 25 clash in which 44 police commandos were killed, many of them shot at close range.

He said a team of CIDG personnel would be going to Mamasapano next week, to question the MILF fighters concerned.

Two weeks after the board was formed, Magalong said, the inquiry had gathered nearly 400 sworn statements and was “more than 70 percent complete.”

“Basically, we know what happened—from mission planning to the execution to termination,” Magalong said.

He vowed to made public the findings and submit the report on Feb. 26.

“It is what the public has been waiting for,” Magalong said.

Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima has yet to submit his own sworn statement on the covert operation that he allegedly led.

Deputy Director Leonardo Espina will also be requested to submit his own statement along with AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr.

At the same time, the PNP demanded that the MILF surrender wanted terrorist Abdul Usman Basit, who escaped the Jan. 25 raid that killed Marwan.

In a joint press briefing with the Armed Forces, Espina said the MILF should surrender Usman Basit to the authorities.

“We expect that all the demands and requests that we have given to the other party vis-a-vis the surrender of Basit Usman to the government as well as all those who will be held and are accountable for killing of my people, our people, will be surrendered by the other party,” said Espina.

Nearly a month after the Maguindanao clash, the MILF has not provided a list of their combatants involved in the incident.

On Wednesday, the MILF returned 16 firearms taken from the dead SAF troopers at the clash site to the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation ofHostilities during ceremonies at the Army’s 6th Infantry Division at its headquarters in Maguindanao.

But Espina said if the MILF is sincere about attaining peace, it had to surrender Usman Basit and its fighters who were involved in the Mamasapano clash.

Catapang agreed, and urged the MILF to return all 63 weapons taken from the slain commandos.

Roxas said they could not be sure if the MILF still had any of the firearms, noting that there were also members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups involved in the fighting. – With Maricel V. Cruz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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