PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

PALACE DENIES RUMOR THAT AQUINO 'COLLAPSED'


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO 
Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - Malacañang on Saturday denied a rumor that President Benigno Aquino III “collapsed” Friday night. 
At past midnight, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued the following statement: “I have communicated with the President regarding the rumors circulating tonight that he collapsed, and he immediately responded to my text with – ‘No such thing.’”  The Secretary said he had “no idea” where the rumor came from. “I was just getting texts and calls from reporters and believed it had to be addressed immediately. And after I inquired from the President, he responded with ‘No such thing.’ The response of the President quelled the rumor,” Lacierda told INQUIRER.net.  It was not clear how the rumor spread but some members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) said they asked the Secretary about it after seeing a tweet by a fellow reporter. The reporter supposedly claimed that a source informed him that Aquino “collapsed.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Aquino in pink of health’; Palace quashes talk of President’s ‘collapse’


President Benigno Aquino III checks out Inquirer online news about his reported healthcare. NIKKO DIZON  
MANILA, Philippines–Has Mamasapano gotten into President Aquino’s nerves? Or have too many cigarettes and too much soda joined forces with pressure from handling the cares of state to bring his 55-year-old body down?   None of the above, if Malacañang can be believed, but at any rate there it was: President Aquino “collapsed” around midnight on Friday—but he did not know.  He found out when his spokesperson called to ask if it was true. It was just a rumor, of course, but since it concerned the President’s health, Malacañang had to work overtime to assure the public that it was not true and that Aquino was in the pink of health.  A Palace insider told the Inquirer on Saturday that the President was at Bahay Pangarap, his official residence on the Malacañang grounds, when he learned at around midnight that he had collapsed.   Earlier that night, the President had dinner with some of his Cabinet officials, the source said.   “He was so surprised when he learned that there was a rumor that he had collapsed,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.   The President was “fine” during the dinner, the source stressed.   Earlier on Friday, Aquino was in Kawit, Cavite province, to inaugurate the new Emilio Aguinaldo museum.  The President led the flag-raising ceremony, but did not give a speech. He looked well as he walked in the museum’s garden with other government officials. READ MORE...

ALSO: Move for Gloria Arroyo's house arrest takes new twist; PNoy is reminded of father’s treatment
(International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of American actor George Clooney, raised the same observation in a complaint on behalf of Arroyo that she and a British attorney filed before a United Nations body).


GLORIA ARROYO SEEKS TEMPORARY HOUSE ARREST....PHOTO FROM BALITA.COM If a “despotic leader” had acknowledged the humanitarian cause of allowing a political foe to get the best medical treatment, there is little reason why President Aquino, the son of the beneficiary of that gesture of compassion, should continue to do the reverse. Former Justice Secretary and now 1-BAP Party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III aired this reminder to President Aquino yesterday. He recalled that Aquino’s father, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was released by the Marcos government to undergo a heart bypass surgery in the United States despite being found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to death by a military tribunal. Bello was a member of the Cabinet of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, In a forum yesterday, Bello urged government not to oppose any bid by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to seek house arrest after over three years of hospital restriction. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO EARLIER REPORT ON FEB 26, 2015: Call for Gloria’s house arrest gains ground


Former DOJ secretary and now 1-BAP Representative Silvestre Bello III INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
Lawmakers yesterday rallied behind the passage of a resolution seeking to grant house arrest to former-president and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo "for humanitarian considerations."  
AKO Bicol party list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano joined former Justice Secretary-turned- 1-BAP party list Rep. Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III in asking the Sandiganbayan to allow the former president to stay in her residence in La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City, citing her "deteriorating" and "fragile" medical condition. Batocabe urged the anti-graft court to reconsider Bello's resolution, explaining that the stay of Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) is more costly than placing her under house arrest. "I support Congressman Bello's resolution. It is more expensive for the government to maintain GMA in the VMMC. Besides, it is highly improbable that GMA will escape and lastly, political figures around the world who are incarcerated are already subject to house arrest," Batocabe said in an interview.   Albano also asked the anti-graft court to show compassion and grant Mrs. Arroyo's long-standing request. READ MORE...

ALSO: Ampatuan patriarch's men involved in Mamasapano clash, AFP says


MAMASAPANO MASSACRE  GMA PHOTO FILE
The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Saturday confirmed the involvement of the private armed group of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in a firefight with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.
"Kasama 'yung private armed group ni former governor Ampatuan sa Mamasapano [clash]," military spokesman Brig Gen. Joselito Kakilala told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Saturday.  Kakilala explained that most of the members of the private armed group joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters after being implicated in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.  "Most of them joined Ali Tambako's group," Kakilala said, referring to the former vice chairman of the BIFF who was arrested in General Santos City earlier this week. The Maguindanao massacre resulted in the deaths of 58 people, including 32 journalists, who were in a convoy headed to the Commission on Elections office to register Esmael Mangudadatu as a candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race.  The Ampatuan patriarch is the principal suspect in the massacre case and is already in government custody. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO Trillanes: 120 SAF commandos ate, texted while Mamasapano clash raged


Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos follows van of 44 fallen   Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV wants the Philippine National Police to investigate why more than 120 Special Action Force commandos involved in Oplan Exodus failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered comrades during the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash.  According to Trillanes, officers of the Philippine Army told the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano operation that three SAF companies stayed idle in their respective positions despite being ordered to help the beleaguered members of the the 55th Special Action Company.  All but one among the members of the 55th SAF Company survived after they found themselves being shot at by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an open cornfield. Trillanes said the Army officers claimed that the team leaders of the three SAF companies—the 41st, 42nd and 45th SAF—lied when they said they were also being fired upon and couldn't comply with then-SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas' order to move in.  "Inutusan niya (Napeñas) 'yung tropa nila na pumasok. [Sinabi na] heavy ang fire na sumasalubong sa kanila. Pero pagdating ng Army doon, nakahiga lang doon, malayo sa engkwentro," Trillanes told GMA News.  "Ang testimonya nu'ng mga army officers, malayo sila (SAF commandos) sa engagement area, hindi sila na-engage.... Nakahiga lang sila, nagte-text pa raw 'yung iba," he added. Trillanes said commandos in question also refused to go with the military reinforcements, who were moving in to help the 55th SAF. READ MORE...

ALSO: House to invite P-Noy to Mamasapano probe


The House of Representatives  MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen are planning to invite President Aquino to their hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.  Rep. Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty yesterday said she and colleagues from the minority bloc would ask the hearing committees to extend an invitation to Aquino.  “It’s better that the President clarify and tell all he knows about the police operation in Mamasapano. The people, his bosses, want to hear from him. They are not satisfied with his previous explanations,” Lopez said in a radio interview.   Malacañang, for its part, said the President is willing to cooperate with the House of Representatives’ investigation into the Mamasapano incident.   Officials, however, did not say whether Aquino’s personal appearance at the House is needed, given the separation of powers among the three branches of government.   Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino did comply with a Senate request for him to submit his exchange of text messages with then suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima with regard to Oplan Exodus, or the operation to arrest two top terrorists in Maguindanao.    Valte said the President – through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. – “gave his consent to a request from the Senate concerning the release of transcriptions of the text message conversations between him and Gen. Purisima” in the early hours of Jan. 25, “in keeping with upholding the dignity of the office and maintaining the principle of separation of powers and respect for a co-equal branch of government.   “We therefore leave it to the responsible members of Congress to arrive at a methodology that will aid their investigation, bearing in mind that the inquiry should remain focused on its primary mission: to uncover the truth,” Valte said. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Speaker rejects plan of House to invite Noy


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.  
MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. yesterday thumbed down suggestions by some opposition lawmakers for the House of Representatives to invite President Aquino to its hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.  “Remember, we have had two exhaustive inquiries already. This is just to wrap up. Certainly, we have no intention of inviting him to the inquiry, but would welcome any information he would give,” Belmonte said in a text message.  Belmonte was referring to the Feb. 11 hearing of the committee on public order and safety and the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, and the proceedings in the ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.  The three committees have heard testimonies on the clashes between Muslim guerillas and Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers on Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Palace denies rumor Aquino ‘collapsed’


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, MARCH 23, 2015 (INQUIRER) Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ 8:30 AM | Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - Malacañang on Saturday denied a rumor that President Benigno Aquino III “collapsed” Friday night.

At past midnight, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued the following statement: “I have communicated with the President regarding the rumors circulating tonight that he collapsed, and he immediately responded to my text with – ‘No such thing.’”

The Secretary said he had “no idea” where the rumor came from.

“I was just getting texts and calls from reporters and believed it had to be addressed immediately. And after I inquired from the President, he responded with ‘No such thing.’ The response of the President quelled the rumor,” Lacierda told INQUIRER.net.

It was not clear how the rumor spread but some members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) said they asked the Secretary about it after seeing a tweet by a fellow reporter. The reporter supposedly claimed that a source informed him that Aquino “collapsed.”

READ MORE...
Lacierda’s statement, which was sent by e-mail, text and tweet, asked media to “disseminate the information accurately.”

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, over state-run radio on Saturday morning, said there was nothing wrong with the President’s health.

“I can assure you that the President’s health is in good condition according to his physician,” she said.

Valte also cautioned media and the public against spreading unverified information.

“Let’s just be careful about disseminating unverified information on social media, not just because it’s the President, but about other equally important things,” she said.

It is the first time that the embattled President, who is said to be a heavy smoker, was rumored to have suffered a serious health issue. In the past, he has suffered minor setbacks like cough and colds, prompting him to consult a doctor or to cancel an event.

The President’s health has always been a concern among Filipinos because of the possibility of political instability in the event of the chief executive’s death. The public has always demanded transparency on the said issue, especially after former President Ferdinand Marcos lied about his deteriorating health, which resulted in his absence from the public eye.

Article VII, Section 12 of the Philippine Constitution states that the public should be informed if the President suffers from serious illness.


INQUIRER

‘Aquino in pink of health’; Palace quashes talk of President’s ‘collapse’ Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:59 AM | Sunday, March 22nd, 2015


President Benigno Aquino III checks out Inquirer online news about his reported healthcare. NIKKO DIZON

MANILA, Philippines–Has Mamasapano gotten into President Aquino’s nerves? Or have too many cigarettes and too much soda joined forces with pressure from handling the cares of state to bring his 55-year-old body down?

None of the above, if Malacañang can be believed, but at any rate there it was: President Aquino “collapsed” around midnight on Friday—but he did not know.

He found out when his spokesperson called to ask if it was true.

It was just a rumor, of course, but since it concerned the President’s health, Malacañang had to work overtime to assure the public that it was not true and that Aquino was in the pink of health.

A Palace insider told the Inquirer on Saturday that the President was at Bahay Pangarap, his official residence on the Malacañang grounds, when he learned at around midnight that he had collapsed.

Earlier that night, the President had dinner with some of his Cabinet officials, the source said.

“He was so surprised when he learned that there was a rumor that he had collapsed,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.

The President was “fine” during the dinner, the source stressed.

Earlier on Friday, Aquino was in Kawit, Cavite province, to inaugurate the new Emilio Aguinaldo museum.

The President led the flag-raising ceremony, but did not give a speech. He looked well as he walked in the museum’s garden with other government officials.

READ MORE...
Who started the rumor that raised questions about the President’s health anew remains a mystery.

The rumor came amid calls for Aquino’s resignation or ouster following a bungled police counterterrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead on Jan. 25 and sunk his administration in its deepest political crisis as he neared the end of his six-year term.

The rumor began with a tweet by a television reporter posted late Friday night, citing an anonymous source who told him that the President “collapsed.”

In the same tweet, the reporter mentioned presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda’s denial.

The tweet triggered a frenzy of reporters’ phone calls to the Palace Communications Group trying to verify the information.

There were scant details. Nothing about where it happened, what time, who the President was with, why he collapsed.

‘No such thing’

At 12:20 a.m., Lacierda texted and posted a tweet: “I have communicated with the President regarding the rumors circulating that he collapsed and he immediately responded to my text that there is ‘No such thing,’” Lacierda said.

He said he hoped his statement would “settle the issue tonight.”

Lacierda also asked the media to “disseminate the information accurately.”

Speaking on state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that “according to his physician,” the President’s “health is in good condition.”

“We really don’t know where these things come from,” Valte said, recalling that a few years ago a Cabinet official was also rumored to have collapsed.

Valte urged the public to be prudent when disseminating information, especially on social media.

“Let’s just be careful about disseminating unverified information on social media, not just because it’s the President, but about other equally important things as well. You know, sometimes I see people who share [on Facebook] ‘I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ll share it anyway.’ Let’s just not adopt that kind of mentality because it is not fair to the subjects of the [unverified] stories,” she said.

Press meeting canceled

Apparently to dispel the rumor, even after his spokespersons had repeatedly denied it, President Aquino tried to meet the press on Saturday afternoon, but canceled it less than an hour after the Palace had sent out an official advisory.

The advisory said the President would “visit NEB around 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.”

The NEB is the New Executive Building, which houses the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the press office. It is located on the Palace grounds.

Aquino, the Inquirer source said, canceled the visit after learning that most of the reporters were not in the press office, as it was their day off.

In a separate phone call, Jo Paulo Espiritu, head of the Malacañang Media Accreditation and Relations Office, said Aquino did not want to inconvenience the reporters, many of whom, he learned, would have to rush to the Palace.

In the evening, the President was spotted with Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares in a restaurant at Gateway Mall in Cubao, Quezon City, where a friend was celebrating his birthday.

President Aquino’s health has been the subject of news reports since he began his term in June 2010.

Heavy smoker

Aquino, a bachelor, has not denied being a heavy smoker. He also drinks a lot of soda.

He has been known as a nocturnal worker since his days in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Prone to coughing fits, which doctors attribute to his smoking, Aquino also does not have a known exercise regimen.

It is that profile that stirs up a media frenzy whenever word comes that Aquino is ill.

In 2012, for instance, President Aquino canceled a meeting with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde because he was ill.

He also has had bouts with cough and cold, and at times had to deal with pollen allergy attacks.

On Saturday, Valte said that the President regularly visits his personal physician.

In June last year, there was a question about whether President Aquino’s medical record should be made public, following a series of cancellations of official functions because he had the flu or was down with pollen allergy.

The question came after the White House made public the medical record of US President Barack Obama. Obama’s doctors declared he was in excellent health.

Confidential

At that time, Malacañang maintained that President Aquino had the privilege of keeping his medical record confidential.

Article VII, Section 12 of the Constitution states that the President’s health requires public disclosure, especially if the illness is “serious.”

“In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shall not be denied access to the President during such illness,” the Constitution says.

The state of health of Russian President Vladimir Putin was also the subject of media scrutiny recently, following a 10-day absence from public view.

Putin denied reports that he was sick when he made a public appearance on March 15.


MANILA BULLETIN

Move for Gloria Arroyo's house arrest takes new twist; PNoy is reminded of father’s treatment by Ben Rosario March 21, 2015


GLORIA ARROYO SEEKS TEMPORARY HOUSE ARREST....PHOTO FROM BALITA.COM

If a “despotic leader” had acknowledged the humanitarian cause of allowing a political foe to get the best medical treatment, there is little reason why President Aquino, the son of the beneficiary of that gesture of compassion, should continue to do the reverse.

Former Justice Secretary and now 1-BAP Party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III aired this reminder to President Aquino yesterday.

He recalled that Aquino’s father, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was released by the Marcos government to undergo a heart bypass surgery in the United States despite being found guilty of various crimes and sentenced to death by a military tribunal.

Bello was a member of the Cabinet of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, In a forum yesterday, Bello urged government not to oppose any bid by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to seek house arrest after over three years of hospital restriction.

CONTINUE READING...

HOUSE ARREST

“Congresswoman Arroyo’s proposed house arrest is not unprecedented.

Remember the case of former President Estrada who was placed under house arrest in Tanay,” Bello told reporters during the Usaping Balita News Forum at Serye Cafe, Quezon City.

He said the fact that five of Arroyo’s co-accused in plunder case were released on bail makes the house arrest argument even stronger.

The Sandiganbayan First Division had rejected thrice Arroyo’s appeal for bail. But it granted the same petition filed by five of her alleged co-conspirators in a P366 million plunder case linked to the disbursement of confidential and intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

MRS. CLOONEY’S OBSERVATION

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of American actor George Clooney, raised the same observation in a complaint on behalf of Arroyo that she and a British attorney filed before a United Nations body.

Clooney raised strong accusations that the Sandiganbayan and a Pasay City court are being pressured by the Aquino government to reject Arroyo’s appeal for acts of leniency, such as the petitions for bail and for house arrest.

The Sandiganbayan and a Pasay City court are hearing an election sabotage case against Arroyo.

Bello noted that two of those granted bail have eluded arrest and surrendered only a year after going into hiding. The two, former Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar and former PCSO Director Jose Taruc IV, were released from detention two weeks after they surrendered.

Asked if Sandiganbayan magistrates may be held liable for impeachment, Bello said he is giving the anti-graft justices “the benefit of the doubt.”

“I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. They have given President Arroyo a furlough last Christmas,” he said.

‘WILL BE TREATED WITH URGENCY’

Earlier, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., a close political ally of President Aquino, disclosed that Bello’s resolution calling for house arrest for Arroyo, an incumbent Pampanga lawmaker, will be treated with urgency.

Tupas, chairman of the House Committee on Justice, called on members of the justice panel to attend the next panel hearing on House Resolution 1908 when the Lower House resumes session in May. He urged that Arroyo’s health condition should be considered in the vote.

“Issues raising humanitarian concerns are always urgent matters as far as I am concerned,” Tupas said.

“There should be sufficient number of committee members in order that we can vote on the resolution,” he added.

But the House panel failed to vote on the issue yesterday after only a few members showed up for the scheduled hearing.

“Since this is a matter of national significance, I believe there should be more of us to decide on it,” he explained.


MANILA BULLETIN EARLIER REPORT... FEBRUARY 26, 2015 REPORT

Call for Gloria’s house arrest gains ground Manila BulletinManila Bulletin – Thu, Feb 26, 2015..


Former DOJ secretary and now 1-BAP Representative Silvestre Bello III INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Lawmakers yesterday rallied behind the passage of a resolution seeking to grant house arrest to former-president and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo "for humanitarian considerations."

AKO Bicol party list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano joined former Justice Secretary-turned- 1-BAP party list Rep. Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III in asking the Sandiganbayan to allow the former president to stay in her residence in La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City, citing her "deteriorating" and "fragile" medical condition.

Batocabe urged the anti-graft court to reconsider Bello's resolution, explaining that the stay of Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) is more costly than placing her under house arrest.

"I support Congressman Bello's resolution. It is more expensive for the government to maintain GMA in the VMMC. Besides, it is highly improbable that GMA will escape and lastly, political figures around the world who are incarcerated are already subject to house arrest," Batocabe said in an interview.

Albano also asked the anti-graft court to show compassion and grant Mrs. Arroyo's long-standing request.

"The resolution is about being compassionate. I hope the Sandiganbayan would consider it," he said.

READ MORE...

Bello filed House Resolution No. 1908 urging the Sandiganbayan to grant house arrest for Arroyo "for humanitarian considerations."

BAIL BID PUSHED

Meantime, Arroyo’s lawyers said state prosecutors are mere presenting suppositions and conjectures at the testimony of a physician who recommended that Arroyo be granted bail since her continued hospital detention is not making her any better, according to her lawyer.

Atty. Modesto Ticman Jr. stressed that "the prosecution has not offered any argument vouched by opinions and findings of an expert witness or cited scientific studies that could have rebutted, or at least placed under a cloud of doubt the accuracy and correctness of the foregoing conclusions and testimony of Dr. Lopez."

In his reply to the opposition filed by the prosecution against Arroyo's appeal for bail, Ticman stressed that clinical psychologist Dr. Arnnulfo Lopez had testified before the court recommending that "accused PGMA should be discharged on bail from detention or confinement as part of said approach to arrest the deterioration of her current medical condition as her continued confinement would endanger her life or result in permanent impairment of health." (With a report from Jeffrey G. Damicog)


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Ampatuan patriarch's men involved in Mamasapano clash, AFP says By AMANDA FERNANDEZ,GMA NewsMarch 21, 2015 1:06pm


MAMASAPANO MASSACRE

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Saturday confirmed the involvement of the private armed group of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in a firefight with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

"Kasama 'yung private armed group ni former governor Ampatuan sa Mamasapano [clash]," military spokesman Brig Gen. Joselito Kakilala told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Saturday.

Kakilala explained that most of the members of the private armed group joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters after being implicated in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.

"Most of them joined Ali Tambako's group," Kakilala said, referring to the former vice chairman of the BIFF who was arrested in General Santos City earlier this week.

The Maguindanao massacre resulted in the deaths of 58 people, including 32 journalists, who were in a convoy headed to the Commission on Elections office to register Esmael Mangudadatu as a candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

The Ampatuan patriarch is the principal suspect in the massacre case and is already in government custody.

CONTINUE READING...
A witness in the Department of Justice investigation into the Mamasapano clash has tagged a group called "Massacre" as among those that attacked the 55th Special Action Company in a cornfield there.

"Hindi ko alam ang pangalan ng grupo, I will have to check, but the PAG [private armed group] of former Governor Ampatuan was part [of the clash]," he said.

More than 60 people, including 44 police commandos, were killed in the clash, which followed a SAF operation against international terrorists, including Zulkifli bin Hir (Marwan), who was killed during the mission.

The military has launched operations against the BIFF, the MILF splinter group that is believed to be hiding Basit Usman, another target of the SAF operation in Mamasapano. — JDS, GMA News


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Trillanes: 120 SAF commandos ate, texted while Mamasapano clash raged March 20, 2015 7:26pm


Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos follows van of 44 fallen

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV wants the Philippine National Police to investigate why more than 120 Special Action Force commandos involved in Oplan Exodus failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered comrades during the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash.

According to Trillanes, officers of the Philippine Army told the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano operation that three SAF companies stayed idle in their respective positions despite being ordered to help the beleaguered members of the the 55th Special Action Company.

All but one among the members of the 55th SAF Company survived after they found themselves being shot at by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an open cornfield.

Trillanes said the Army officers claimed that the team leaders of the three SAF companies—the 41st, 42nd and 45th SAF—lied when they said they were also being fired upon and couldn't comply with then-SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas' order to move in.

"Inutusan niya (Napeñas) 'yung tropa nila na pumasok. [Sinabi na] heavy ang fire na sumasalubong sa kanila. Pero pagdating ng Army doon, nakahiga lang doon, malayo sa engkwentro," Trillanes told GMA News.

"Ang testimonya nu'ng mga army officers, malayo sila (SAF commandos) sa engagement area, hindi sila na-engage.... Nakahiga lang sila, nagte-text pa raw 'yung iba," he added.

Trillanes said commandos in question also refused to go with the military reinforcements, who were moving in to help the 55th SAF.

READ MORE...
"Pinipilit nila (Army officers) na sumama sa kanila 'yung mga SAF. [Sabi raw], 'Ayaw naming pumasok diyan, masyadong malakas 'yung putukan, hindi namin alam 'yung terrain," Trillanes said.

The clash, which followed an operation against wanted international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman, led to the deaths of 66 people, including 44 SAF officers, 17 members of the MILF and five civilians.

The 55th SAF was supposed to serve as the blocking force to make way for the withdrawal of the 84th Seaborne, the team that neutralized Marwan before dawn of Jan. 25.

Assistance from the 120 SAF commandos could have lessened the number of casualties, particularly of their comrades, since there were only 100 to 150 armed men engaged with the 55th SAF company at around 6 a.m., Trillanes said.

"Kung maaga pa lang sila, nagpunta na sila, hindi na tayo napunta dito, nanalo sila," Trillanes said.

Another detail in question is why the military failed to provide artillery support despite the fact that Napeñas give them grid coordinates, the 24 Oras report said.

However, when the military plotted the grid coordinates on the map, they found that it would fall on the location of the SAF commandos, which would have led to more deaths, it added.


PHILSTAR

House to invite P-Noy to Mamasapano probe By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2015 - 12:00am


The House of Representatives

MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen are planning to invite President Aquino to their hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.

Rep. Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty yesterday said she and colleagues from the minority bloc would ask the hearing committees to extend an invitation to Aquino.

“It’s better that the President clarify and tell all he knows about the police operation in Mamasapano. The people, his bosses, want to hear from him. They are not satisfied with his previous explanations,” Lopez said in a radio interview.

Malacañang, for its part, said the President is willing to cooperate with the House of Representatives’ investigation into the Mamasapano incident.

Officials, however, did not say whether Aquino’s personal appearance at the House is needed, given the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino did comply with a Senate request for him to submit his exchange of text messages with then suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima with regard to Oplan Exodus, or the operation to arrest two top terrorists in Maguindanao.

Valte said the President – through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. – “gave his consent to a request from the Senate concerning the release of transcriptions of the text message conversations between him and Gen. Purisima” in the early hours of Jan. 25, “in keeping with upholding the dignity of the office and maintaining the principle of separation of powers and respect for a co-equal branch of government.

“We therefore leave it to the responsible members of Congress to arrive at a methodology that will aid their investigation, bearing in mind that the inquiry should remain focused on its primary mission: to uncover the truth,” Valte said.

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In this manner, the process would not be abused by those who might be inclined to take advantage of the occasion to advance personal motives, she said.

“The pursuit of justice must be defined by a strong commitment to the truth. President Aquino has been unwavering in his support for truth seeking regarding the Mamasapano incident, and encourages any action that would contribute to arriving at the truth at the soonest possible time,” Valte said.

Fine-tuning the investigation

Lopez made the call for the President to appear before the House inquiry apparently referring to a survey showing that 79 percent of respondents found Aquino’s nationally televised speeches on the Mamasapano incident unsatisfactory.

Lopez and the opposition bloc led by Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora spearheaded the twin initiatives for the House to resume its inquiry into the Jan. 25 bloodbath and to postpone tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) until the Mamasapano probe was finished.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and other House leaders agreed to the minority proposals, which were supported by more than 100 members of the majority.

Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, chairman of the House committee on public safety and order, said the members of the committee would like to resume the hearings.

Ferrer, who presided over the initial House inquiry on the Mamasapano incident, said the hearings might be held in an executive session to avoid disorder among the committee members.

Ferrer said based on his assessment of the reports of the BOI and the Senate, 75 percent of what was stated in the reports is reflective of what had really transpired.

He said copies of the BOI and the Senate reports have been distributed to committee members.

The House conducted its first inquiry on the clash last February but the hearings were suspended supposedly to avoid preempting the findings of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI).

Some lawmakers, however, believe that Malacañang was behind the suspension to protect Aquino, whose popularity has eroded because of his supposed mishandling of the clash.

Others believe the suspension stemmed from the boisterous and unruly behavior of some lawmakers who attended the hearing in the House.

While the Mamasapano hearings will be held on April 7 and 8, the ad hoc committee on the draft BBL chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez postponed the resumption of its work from April 6 to April 20.

“We still have time to finish our work on this proposed piece of legislation. We hope to present our report to the House when we reconvene on May 4 after the Lenten break and have plenary approval hopefully before we end our second regular session on June 11,” Rodriguez said.

Lopez said the Mamasapano hearings at the House would not touch on what the Senate and the BOI have investigated and tackled in their reports.

Lopez said she and her colleagues would focus on the gaps in the Senate and BOI reports on the operation of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano.

As far as she was concerned, Lopez said she wanted to hear satisfactory statements from officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao and particularly in Maguindanao why they took 11 hours to help embattled policemen out on a mission to capture suspected terrorists.

“Was there an order from higher authorities for them to stand down in consideration of the government’s peace process with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)?” she asked.

She noted the claim of senior police officers involved in Mamasapano that Maj. Gen. Edmund Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao, did not allow early artillery fire support “due to the peace process.”

“As noted in the Senate report, if there was artillery fire during the early hours of the gun battle, even just blank rounds, some lives could have been saved,” Lopez stressed.

Pangilinan explained in congressional hearings that there are protocols that should be followed in the firing of artillery, like the availability of information on the location of friendly and enemy forces.

Such information was not immediately available, he said.

Military officials, however, denied this and claimed that they were not given adequate information about the whereabouts of the beleaguered police commandos.

The military said they would cooperate with the investigation of the Mamasapano incident when the House resumes its probe after Holy Week.

“We are willing to participate because they are our legislative body. They have a mandate to do and we just have to make ourselves available for whatever hearings,” AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said.

A total of 44 policemen were killed and 12 others were wounded in a clash between the SAF and Muslim rebels in a remote village in Mamasapano.

They were on a mission to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.

Although they were able to neutralize Marwan, the SAF operatives figured in a firefight with the MILF and the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as they were about to get out of the area.

Public outrage over the killing of the policemen and questions surrounding the President’s handling of the issue have blow up into his biggest political crisis.

The Senate report said Aquino was “ultimately responsible” for allowing then suspended PNP chief Purisima, who has since resigned, to handle the SAF mission to get Marwan.

The BOI also blamed Aquino for violating the chain of command by ignoring acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina and dealing only with Purisima on the Mamasapano mission.

However, Malacañang has objected to the BOI and Senate findings that President Aquino broke the chain of command.

Valte earlier said Aquino’s communication with Purisima during the planning and execution of the Mamasapano operation should not mean that he allowed the controversial police official to still function as PNP chief despite being under a six-month preventive suspension over corruption allegations.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the BOI report “stands as it is” and that the meeting between Aquino and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Espina, BOI chairman Director Benjamin Magalong and BOI member Chief Supt. John Sosito – along with other Cabinet officials – allowed the President to clarify certain matters in the report.

Coloma also called the BOI report “independent and objective.”

Independent probe

Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, renewed his call for an independent body to investigate the Mamasapano fiasco, pointing out the results of the Senate and the BOI probes remain unsatisfactory to the public.

“Despite the gallant effort of the PNP Board of Inquiry, as well as of the joint committees of the Senate, to come up with investigation reports that could help us comprehend the truth about the tragic incident, it is easy to understand the limitations within which they had to labor,” Binay said in his speech at the 15th national convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Cebu City.

“The conscience of this nation will not rest until justice is secured for the fallen heroes of the PNP SAF; and delivery of justice is possible only when our people see the whole truth,” he said.

Binay, however, did not elaborate on what he meant by limitations on the Senate and the BOI investigations.

Binay earlier suggested that the members of the fact-finding body include former chief magistrates, Church leaders and religious groups and eminent personalities.

“I have publicly called for the creation of an independent commission that will be capable of uncovering the whole truth about the tragedy, without fear or favor,” Binay said.

“I sincerely believe that the IBP can be entrusted to name a representative if one is created, together with equally credible non-government institutions such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and assist in the investigation work,” he said.

For their part, militant party-list representatives belonging to the House minority said they would focus on the involvement of six Americans in the SAF operation starting on the eve of the mission up to the day it was carried out.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it was already established in the Senate and BOI reports that there were six Americans who helped then SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas and his ground commanders monitor the progress of their mission.

In fact, the Senate report identifies one of the US nationals as a certain Al Katz, he said.

The same Americans were on hand to evacuate some of the wounded policemen on Jan. 25 using their own white-and-green helicopter, he said.

Despite these facts, Zarate added the Department of Foreign Affairs and US authorities still maintained the US was not involved in Mamasapano, though they admitted the Americans mentioned in the Senate and BOI reports were “private contractors” or “contract personnel.”

He pointed out the Washington Post article last Wednesday, quoting Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, as saying the six Americans were “contract personnel” assigned to a US anti-terrorism task force based in Zamboanga City.

He stressed that Pool’s statement meant the US was involved in the SAF operation through retired American servicemen described as military contractors the US anti-terrorism task force hired to help SAF, instead of deploying organic military personnel.Aurea Calica, Helen Flores, Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Danny Dangcalan

PHILSTAR

Speaker rejects plan of House to invite Noy By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 22, 2015 - 12:00am


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. yesterday thumbed down suggestions by some opposition lawmakers for the House of Representatives to invite President Aquino to its hearings on the Mamasapano incident on April 7 and 8.

“Remember, we have had two exhaustive inquiries already. This is just to wrap up. Certainly, we have no intention of inviting him to the inquiry, but would welcome any information he would give,” Belmonte said in a text message.

Belmonte was referring to the Feb. 11 hearing of the committee on public order and safety and the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, and the proceedings in the ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

The three committees have heard testimonies on the clashes between Muslim guerillas and Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers on Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

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The encounters left 44 policemen dead. Eighteen Muslim fighters and five civilians also died.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said he does not think Aquino would attend even if invited.

“They can invite him, but there is RSVP (please reply),” he said.

For his part, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III supported his minority colleagues’ suggestion for the House to invite the President to its hearings.

“Why not, there is no harm in trying. For all we know, the President is just waiting for another opportunity to explain himself on this tragic incident in Mamasapano. If he accepts the invitation, we will accord him all the courtesy due him and his office,” he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said there is no need for the President to appear before the House.

“He is willing to cooperate with us by giving us the information we need,” he said.

In fact, Malacañang has announced that it would send the House a transcript of text messages exchanged between Aquino and suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima on Jan. 25, he said.

“He is giving us his text messages. He has told the nation what he knows about the SAF operation in three nationally televised speeches. What more do we want?” Evardone asked.

For Rep. Rodel Batocabe of party-list group Ako Bicol, the minority’s suggestion for Aquino to testify before the House “is just a publicity stunt.”

“Out of respect for the President and his office, we should not invite him. The Senate did not and the House should not,” he said.

Batocabe said the hearing committees could just write Aquino if they need additional information from him.

On Friday, Rep. Carol Jane Lopez of party-list group You Against Corruption and Poverty said she and colleagues from the minority bloc would ask the hearing committees to invite Aquino.

Lopez said the hearing would give the President the opportunity to clarify and tell all that he knows about the police operation in Mamasapano.

She said the people are not satisfied with his previous explanations.

Lopez said the April 7-8 hearings would not touch on what the Senate and the PNP Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI) have already investigated and tackled in their reports.

She added that she and her colleagues would focus on the gaps in the Senate and BOI reports on the carnage in Mamasapano.

Malacañang, however, expressed caution against the suggestion to have President Aquino appear before a congressional inquiry.

“There are various ways to go about it,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said when asked how the President could answer the questions of the lawmakers, particularly on the role of Purisima in the operation in Mamasapano.

“If that’s one of the things that they intend to take up in the hearings in the House, then again we leave it up to the responsible congressmen to come up with the proper methodology by which to ask the President that particular question,” Valte said.

“You have to consider that not because he’s President Aquino, but also…it’s the Office of the President that we’re talking about and that is the office of the head of the executive branch, which is separate and independent and co-equal from Congress. You also have to afford the office the courtesy and the respect that office demands,” she added.

Valte said congressmen would still have to discuss whether it would be necessary for Aquino to personally appear before them and vote on it.

“Even in the Senate – as we talked about (it Friday) – the Senate coursed its request through a written letter, and obviously, you can see that the President responded favorably,” she said.

Valte pointed out the possibility that Aquino appearing before the hearing would afford the opportunity for some groups to use the issue by criticizing the President.

“It doesn’t take much of a stretch to really understand that there are groups that would like to use this, this incident, to heighten negative sentiments about the President,” she said.

Earlier, Valte said the President agreed to a Senate request for a transcript of his text messages with Purisima in the early hours of Jan. 25.

The release was in response to a March 3 letter from the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to Aquino and Smart communications’ chief executive officer for the telecommunications company to submit the President’s conversations with Purisima from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. on that day.

Valte said there was no reason to worry about the President’s cellphone number getting revealed to the public because it was not the one he was personally using.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., in reply to the Senate request, asked Senate President Franklin Drilon that the text messages be covered specifically by executive privilege and generally by the privacy of communications because Purisima was still a member of the police force.

“Nevertheless, in the interest of transparency and considering that the SMS conversations being sought have already been testified on by Mr. Purisima during the 23 February 2015 public hearing of the Committee, the President has given his consent to the release of the requested transcriptions by Smart, excepting any and all portions which have no relation to the subject of the inquiry or matters involving national security,” Ochoa’s letter read.

Malacañang maintained the President has been judged both in the Senate and the Board of Inquiry (BOI) report without hearing his side of the story.

The BOI said Aquino broke the chain of command by dealing with Purisima and relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas with regard to the operation but later clarified it did not mean he violated anything.

The Senate, on the other hand, found the President ultimately responsible for the incident even if Malacañang had been saying that his orders were disobeyed by his subordinates.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), on the other hand, said it would evaluate the Senate findings on the Mamasapano operation.

“We will also evaluate their findings on top of the PNP findings,” NBI director Virgilio Mendez said. – Aurea Calica, Aie Balagtas See, Janvic Mateo


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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