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

PNP GRADUATION: PNoy GIVES NO APOLOGY, INSTEAD ASKS FOR UNDERSTANDING OVER MAMASAPANO


President Benigno Aquino III delivers a speech during a previous Philippine National Police Academy commencement exercise at Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite. Benhur Arcayan / Malacañang Photo Bureau file 
In what could be his final speech on the Mamasapano tragedy, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday appealed for public understanding over his shortcomings in the bungled operation but he came short of issuing an apology. Speaking at the 36th Philippine National Police (PNP) Academy commencement exercises, Aquino reiterated that he failed to immediately help the Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in January 25 because he was fed with wrong information about their mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Aquino said he will not let government forces join a "suicide mission" but he insisted that he was convinced by police officials that the Mamasapano operation was well-planned and will be executed efficiently. The president said he assumed that all of his orders will be followed and that there will be coordination with the military regarding the Mamasapano mission. He also maintained that there was no sense of urgency from the updates he received through text messages during the day of the operation. The president said this prevented him from responding immediately to the situation on the ground. "Ang sa akin lang po, subukan din naman sana ninyong ilagay ang sarili niyo sa sitwasyon ko," he said. "Kung nalaman ko ito agad, sa tingin n'yo ba, hindi ako gagawa ng paraan para tulungan ang ating hanay?"  READ MORE...

ALSO: GMA prays her ill fate befalls none


Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (photo) shudders at the mere thought of her jailers being given a dose of their own medicine by taking her place in detention when the Aquino administration steps down from power in 2016.
Colleagues in the House of Representatives made this assessment as they described how Arroyo reacted to a joke aired by one of them during a recent visit with Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she had been under detention for nearly four years now. READ  MORE...
MEANWHILE: PNoy prays for guidance, strength fulfilling his duties as President


Confronted with the biggest political crisis of his presidency after the controversial police mission in Maguindanao, President Aquino has sought for strength and guidance in fulfilling his duties to the Filipino nation.
The President offered such prayers as he marked his 55th birthday without fanfare. Aquino stayed out of public sight and opted to spend private time with his family. READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino makes last statement on Mamasapano raid; ‘As God is my witness, I swear I’m telling the truth’


A LONG WAY FROM MAMASAPANO President Aquino troops the line during the Philippine National Police Academy graduation on Thursday in Camp General Mariano Castañeda, Silang, Cavite. RAFFY LERMA
SILANG, Cavite—“With God as my witness, I tell you the truth.”  That’s how President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday sought to convince the nation that what he had been saying he knew about a bungled counterterrorism operation that left 44 elite police commandos was true. Addressing the 247 graduating cadets of the Philippine National Police Academy here, Mr. Aquino took responsibility for the botched Special Action Force (SAF) mission.  But he offered no public apology as demanded by the families of the 44 SAF commandos who were killed in a daylong gun battle with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25. In his fourth speech about the incident that has become his biggest political crisis, the President appealed for public understanding of the decisions he made in the aftermath of the tragedy, including not showing up at the arrival honors for the slain policemen at Villamor Air Base on Jan. 29. For the first time, Mr. Aquino said he “regretted trusting the people who concealed the truth” from him. READ MORE...

ALSO: PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson at PNPA commencement rites; Misuari grandson also a grad


Photo shows cadet Andal Ampatuan III receiving his diploma. WILLY PEREZ  
MANILA, Philippines - The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).  Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.  The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. They will be automatically commissioned as officers in the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the former governor while his father is Akhmad Ampatuan, one of the accused who is now among those detained in Bicutan. Aside from the Ampatuan patriarch, Ampatuan III’s uncle and namesake, former Unsay mayor Andal Jr., and another uncle, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy, are also locked up in Bicutan as principal accused in the massacre case. Ampatuan III admitted there was pressure when he first entered the academy in 2011 as a cadet but people there came to see him as a person separate from the murder case. READ MORE...

ALSO: 2 months later, Aquino explains absence at SAF arrival honors


PRESIDENT NOT HERE! 2 months later, Aquino said he wanted to give the families the space to grieve during the arrival honors on January 29. THE PHOTO: Members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force carry caskets bearing the bodies of slain SAF men at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. Ernie Peñaredondo MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday tried to justify his absence at the arrival honors for the Special Action Force commandos slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao two months ago. In his speech at the 36th commencement exercises of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Academy, Aquino said he wanted to give the families the space to grieve during the arrival honors on January 29. After drawing flak for snubbing the event, Aquino said it was not his intention to appear insensitive or unsympathetic. "Ikinalulungkot kong sa pagnanais kong bigyan ng espasyong magluksa ang mga makakakita, sa unang pagkakataon, ng nasawi nilang kaanak, ay may mga nag-isip na ako'y manhid at walang pakikiramay. Ang intensiyon ko noon ay makatulong sa paghilom," Aquino said. READ MORE....

ALSO: Lawmakers hit, laud President’s remarks


LEYTE'S Rep Romualdez: THE leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives challenged President Benigno Aquino III Thursday to set an example for his much touted “straight path” in governance by admitting accountability and ending his blame game over the Jan. 25 Mamasapano bloodbath.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez expressed  disappointment over what he said was the President’s continued attempts to wash his hands of responsibility in the Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed. “They should stop the script because that is not the straight path and the people are very tired of it,” Romualdez said.  “Still, the President evades accountability when he stops short of saying sorry by appealing for public understanding. I am not surprised. It’s the same speech to excuse himself and his men from the responsibility over the Mamasapano debacle,” Romualdez said. READ MORE WHAT OTHER SENATORS SAY...

ALSO: PNoy slams Senate, BOI investigations at PMA commencement


Commencement exercises. President Benigno Aquino III sits with Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 36th commencement exercises at the Philippine National Police Academy in Silang, Cavite, on Thursday. Danny Pata 
IGNORING calls for a public apology, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday slammed the Senate and the police board of inquiry for basing their reports on the Mamasapano debacle on speculation.  Speaking to graduates of Philippine National Police Academy in Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite, Aquino said it saddened him that those who prepared the reports chose to speculate on the events that led to deaths of 44 police commandos in the covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, instead of asking him questions. Despite this criticism, Aquino said the two reports answered many of the questions in the minds of the public. “Both reports agree with our initial statements about certain details of the operation. In fact, the two reports reaffirm the position we had taken from the very beginning: The lack of coordination with the AFP was a major mistake,” said Aquino. READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy orders own BBL review


PNoy  
EVEN as Congress considers the Palace’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday called on “citizen leaders” to convene a national peace summit to review the measure that lawmakers have found to be replete with constitutional infirmities.
Aquino made the call in a national television address marking the first anniversary of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  “The Bangsamoro Basic Law is one of the most important proposed bills of our administration,” Aquino said in his address where he also warned lawmakers to pass the bill or start counting “body bags.”   He warned it would be difficult to restart peace talks if the current process failed and the MILF leadership lost its influence among its members to more radical elements. READ MORE...

ALSO: An open letter to the President


Dear Mr. President: ---The time has arrived for you to own up to the Mamasapano incident. You must apologize. 
Apologize for your incomplete grasp of the nature of the chain of command that governs and binds the AFP and PNP hierarchies. The chain of command required you to deal directly with the AFP Chief of Staff and the PNP Chief, but, for reasons of your own, you chose to deal directly with the suspended PNP Chief and the 2-star SAF Commander. You can bypass, as in fact you did, the chain of command except that when you do so, you create confusion among those who have, throughout their professional lives, rigorously observed such chain. Orders go down the chain of command and not the other way around.   Apologize for sending men on a mission which, from its inception, was already compromised by the peace process. You wanted the best of both worlds. You wanted to capture a terrorist in enemy territory but at the same time you wanted to preserve the peace. You did not have the foresight to realize that you could not have both, so that when battle broke out, as it foreseeably would, the 44 found themselves immolated on the altar of peace. CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Aquino gives no apology but asks for understanding over Mamasapano


President Benigno Aquino III delivers a speech during a previous Philippine National Police Academy commencement exercise at Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite. Benhur Arcayan / Malacañang Photo Bureau file

MANILA, MARCH 30, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - In what could be his final speech on the Mamasapano tragedy, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday appealed for public understanding over his shortcomings in the bungled operation but he came short of issuing an apology.

Speaking at the 36th Philippine National Police (PNP) Academy commencement exercises, Aquino reiterated that he failed to immediately help the Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in January 25 because he was fed with wrong information about their mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Aquino said he will not let government forces join a "suicide mission" but he insisted that he was convinced by police officials that the Mamasapano operation was well-planned and will be executed efficiently.

The president said he assumed that all of his orders will be followed and that there will be coordination with the military regarding the Mamasapano mission.

He also maintained that there was no sense of urgency from the updates he received through text messages during the day of the operation.

The president said this prevented him from responding immediately to the situation on the ground.

"Ang sa akin lang po, subukan din naman sana ninyong ilagay ang sarili niyo sa sitwasyon ko," he said. "Kung nalaman ko ito agad, sa tingin n'yo ba, hindi ako gagawa ng paraan para tulungan ang ating hanay?"

READ MORE...
He said no other leader could have performed better with the kind of information he had while the operation was unfolding.

"Meron po kayang makakapagsabi nang totoo na kaya niyang higitan ang mga nagawa natin sa impormasyong tangan natin noong mga araw na iyon upang tugunan ang sitwasyong hindi man niya batid?" the President asked.

Aquino said he is saddened by the deaths of the 44 SAF troopers and that he bears responsibility for the outcome of the bungled operation.

"Ang magagawa ko na lamang, matapos masabi ang lahat ng dapat sabihin at magawa ng lahat ng dapat gawin, humingi po ng pang-unawa," Aquino said.

"Buong pagpapakumbaba kong hinihiling ang inyong pang-unawa," he added.

Aquino has been criticized for not acknowledging his possible mistakes in the Mamasapano operation and passing all the blame to relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas.

The PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) report on the Mamasapano incident found that Aquino broke the chain of command when he exercised his authority to deal with Napeñas in the execution of the operation.

The BOI said the president also broke the chain of command when he also dealt directly with his close friend, former PNP Director General Alan Purisima, who was then suspended over corruption allegations.

The Senate committees that investigated the Mamasapano incident also said in their report that Aquino is "ultimately responsible" for the outcome of the SAF mission.

The SAF operation was aimed at neutralizing Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.

During the mission, the SAF troopers clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups that led to the deaths of 44 SAF men, 18 rebels and five civilians.

The Mamasapano tragedy has placed the government's peace talks with the MILF in peril while Aquino's perceived ineptitude in handling the Mamasapano issue has pulled down his ratings to their lowest levels.


MANILA BULLETIN

GMA prays her ill fate befalls none by Ben Rosario March 29, 2015

Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (photo) shudders at the mere thought of her jailers being given a dose of their own medicine by taking her place in detention when the Aquino administration steps down from power in 2016.

Colleagues in the House of Representatives made this assessment as they described how Arroyo reacted to a joke aired by one of them during a recent visit with Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she had been under detention for nearly four years now.

READ MORE...
Asked for an update on the House appeal to downgrade Arroyo’s hospital detention to house arrest, Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza revealed that during their visit, one of their colleagues in the independent minority bloc joked that Arroyo will soon be released while those who unfalteringly blocked her release on bail will be taking her place at the VMMC hospital quarters for the next six years.

“Magbalot-balot na kayo dahil maraming papalit dito sa inyo,” the unnamed solon said.

While everybody in the hospital suite burst into laughter, Arroyo did not.

“I don’t even want you or anybody else to go through this same experience I have undergone. I hope and pray that none of them will replace me here,” Atienza said quoting the former president.

MEANWHILE Earlier: PNoy prays for guidance, strength fulfilling his duties as President by Genalyn Kabiling February 8, 2015 MANILA BULLETIN

Confronted with the biggest political crisis of his presidency after the controversial police mission in Maguindanao, President Aquino has sought for strength and guidance in fulfilling his duties to the Filipino nation.

The President offered such prayers as he marked his 55th birthday without fanfare. Aquino stayed out of public sight and opted to spend private time with his family.

READ MORE...
“Of course, the President hopes and prays that he will be given renewed strength, guidance and grace to carry out his duties because of his important service to the people,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said over government radio.

Coloma also asked the public to offer a prayer for the President on his birth anniversary so he can attain his goals for the nation, particularly in having a robust economic growth felt by all Filipinos.

We ask for prayers and guidance from the Lord so the President can sustain the implementation of programs and projects to achieve inclusive growth during his term,” he added.

The President’s sister, Kris Aquino, later shared a photo of the President blowing the candles on a birthday cake held by her son Bimby during a family gathering.

“Simple birthday lunch. #family,” the television host said on her Instagram page.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President spends his special day with his family and with simplicity “whether in good times or bad.”


INQUIRER

Aquino makes last statement on Mamasapano raid; ‘As God is my witness, I swear I’m telling the truth’ Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:18 AM | Friday, March 27th, 2015


A LONG WAY FROM MAMASAPANO President Aquino troops the line during the Philippine National Police Academy graduation on Thursday in Camp General Mariano Castañeda, Silang, Cavite. RAFFY LERMA

SILANG, Cavite—“With God as my witness, I tell you the truth.”

That’s how President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday sought to convince the nation that what he had been saying he knew about a bungled counterterrorism operation that left 44 elite police commandos was true.

Addressing the 247 graduating cadets of the Philippine National Police Academy here, Mr. Aquino took responsibility for the botched Special Action Force (SAF) mission.

But he offered no public apology as demanded by the families of the 44 SAF commandos who were killed in a daylong gun battle with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.

In his fourth speech about the incident that has become his biggest political crisis, the President appealed for public understanding of the decisions he made in the aftermath of the tragedy, including not showing up at the arrival honors for the slain policemen at Villamor Air Base on Jan. 29.

For the first time, Mr. Aquino said he “regretted trusting the people who concealed the truth” from him.

READ MORE...
He did not name his friend, the former Philippine National Police chief, Director General Alan Purisima, and the sacked SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, the two police officials who knew most about “Oplan Exodus,” the secret SAF mission to capture Malaysian-born terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Amin Baco, alias “Jihad,” and their Filipino associate, Basit Usman, in Moro rebel-controlled Mamasapano.

Last time

As earlier reported by the Inquirer, the President said in his speech at the 36th PNPA graduation rites would be the last time he would discuss Mamasapano, except if the congressional hearing on the incident would need “further clarification” from him.

“With God as my witness, I tell you the truth,” Mr. Aquino told the graduating members of the PNPA Lakandula Class of 2015 who were in formation at Camp Gen. Mariano Castañeda field here.

Six of the fallen SAF commandos were graduates of the PNPA.

The President stressed that the new police officers deserved to know the truth about how he arrived at the decisions he made on Jan. 25 as Oplan Exodus was unraveling, even if, he said, there would still be those who would doubt his word.

“I am aware of this: That no words will suffice to explain the deaths of our brave policemen. A report or a speech can never reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who lost a good child. All I can do, after saying all that must be said, and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding,” Mr. Aquino said.

“Today, I say this once more: As President, I am fully responsible for any result—any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy—that may be borne of our desire for lasting security and peace,” he said.

As in his past narrations about Mamasapano, the President left his critics asking why he allowed Purisima to have a role in the planning and execution of the SAF mission.

Failure to coordinate

Mr. Aquino emphasized that the debacle was the result of the failure to coordinate with the military, a responsibility that Napeñas assumed during the briefing for the President about the mission on Jan. 9.

“Regardless of my anger for the disregard for the orders I gave, regardless of my regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from me, I can never erase the fact: 44 members of our police force are dead. And this happened during my term. Let me stress it: I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave,” he said.

READ: Aquino claims responsibility for Mamasapano tragedy

The President said that he was “saddened by the fact that, despite my effort to give the families space to grieve, as they were to meet their fallen loved ones for the first time, some people found fault in this by calling me cruel or without regard for such loss.”

Mr. Aquino said that his absence from the arrival honors was meant to help the families heal from their loss, and he did not want to face them without answers to their questions about why the commandos died.

“If my response was ‘I do not know,’ how could I help hasten the healing?” Mr. Aquino said.

“I am also saddened that our peace process has been affected by the sentiments connected to the result of Oplan Exodus. To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation: It is with the abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” he said.

BACKSTORY: People to Aquino: Mamasapano explanation ‘not enough’

Police, Senate speculation

He took exception to the failure of the PNP board of inquiry and Senate reports to seek clarification from him but instead speculated.

The President noted, however, that at the very least, the two reports reaffirmed “the position we had taken from the very beginning” that the SAF’s lack of coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines “was a major mistake.”

“Yes, I am the President, but I am also human. I cannot read the mind of every person in front of me, and I cannot personally monitor every situation. But as I have promised, I will continue to do what is right and just. I will continue to exert every effort to serve all of you and to faithfully fulfill my sworn mandate. I am not saying that I am like God, who knows everything, but I have a duty to right whatever wrong I discover. And I assure you: We respect due process. Those responsible will be held to account,” he said.

The President recounted in his speech that without the sense of urgency in the updates he received from the Mamasapano operation, he proceeded to Zamboanga City on Jan. 25 to attend to the pressing security concerns there, following a car bomb explosion that killed two and injured dozens on Jan. 23.

He said he also wanted to discuss the rehabilitation efforts in the city, more than a year after rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked in September 2013.

‘True situation’

But what was going on in Mamasapano was on his mind that morning, and he thought that the operation had been completed, Mr. Aquino said.

But it was only in the early evening that he was informed of the “true situation” in Mamasapano, he said.

BACKSTORY: Mamasapano clash: Who told Aquino when?

The President said he ordered the military to link up or at the very least deliver aid or medical supplies to the beleaguered policemen.

Mr. Aquino told the new police officers that the most important question he wanted to answer following the tragedy in Mamasapano was one posed by the father of a slain SAF commando: “Why did you allow my son to go there? Why did you let him die?”

“I understand where such statements come from. I have repeatedly looked back on what I knew about what happened, and have thought about whether I had been lacking, and whether I could have done more,” he said.

The President stressed that he would not order the uniformed services to go on a suicide mission.

He said that if a delicate operation was not turning out as planned, he would always be the “very first to call for its cancellation.”

“However, the version of the plan presented to me convinced me that adequate preparations were made, and that it would be executed correctly. I also assumed that all my orders would be followed, especially since I was dealing with professionals regarding the matter,” he said.

Explanation enough

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the President’s explanation should be enough to appease the public.

“I am satisfied with his explanation. He has accepted responsibility. Time to move on,” Belmonte said.

But at least two party-list lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc were dissatisfied with Mr. Aquino’s speech, interpreting his words as a hardheaded refusal to accept accountability.

“President Aquino’s refusal to admit accountability in the death of the SAF 44 while still blaming others will only worsen his predicament as it further fuels the clamor for him to step down,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

READ: Militant solon questions Aquino sincerity

Evasive

He said blaming Purisima was “one of the worst defenses” the President could make, since Purisima, who took charge of the Mamasapano operation even though he was under suspension, had no authority at the time.

“[Mr.] Aquino’s actions not only endangered the lives of the SAF men but also sent the wrong message to the people,” Colmenares said.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said Mr. Aquino was intentionally evasive.

“The President has purposefully and willfully missed the point in this speech. The point is to admit that he broke the chain of command, that he used the PNP SAF as cannon fodder, that he is ultimately responsible for the bloodshed in Mamasapano,” Ridon said.

“Yet here is [Mr.] Aquino at his worst, showing not even an ounce of remorse for his criminal actions that led to the death of almost 70 Filipinos,” Ridon said, referring to the deaths of the 44 policemen, 17 fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and three civilians.

READ: Aquino speech fails to satisfy militant solons

The House will resume its inquiry into the Mamasapano debacle on April 7 and 8.

Belmonte said it was up to the two committees leading the investigation to decide whether to ask for a further explanation from Mr. Aquino or his subordinates, about the incident that has imperiled the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, chair of the public order and safety committee, one of the two House panels jointly conducting the Mamasapano probe, acknowledged Mr. Aquino’s “humility” in asking for public understanding.

“Let us just respect his sentiments. At least there is a gesture of humility on his part,” he said.

‘PinoyQ’

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called the President, “PinoyQ,” a play on Pinocchio, the fairy-tale puppet whose nose grows every time he lies, and “Pontius Pilate,” for continuing to wash his hands of accountability for Mamasapano.

“How can we understand what happened in Mamasapano if the President himself refuses to tell us his real role in that event? Also, there are more questions that remain unanswered, which include why he broke the chain of command and trusted suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima,” Zarate told reporters in Davao City.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said the President needed “a reality check because he sees another reality from the reality experienced by the people.”

“He should fire his scriptwriters because their story does not hold together. He said somebody has to answer; he is the one who should answer. He should resign. He is hopeless, nothing can be done about him. He is inventing a reality totally different from the reality experienced by the whole country,” Ilagan told reporters in Davao City.

“Even his timeline account does not match with the official timeline of events, which already came out in the investigation. He lives in a videogame reality, how can we trust a President like that? We would be in grave danger if we follow such a leader,” she said.

READ: BOI report highlights Aquino’s conflicting claims on Mamasapano debacle

‘Liar, resign’

Activists who gathered in Barangay 413 on Bustillos Street, Manila, jeered as President Aquino was speaking at the PNPA.

“Liar,” they cried. “Resign.”

Numbering about 50, the activists refused to accept the President’s statement that he was misinformed about the true situation in Mamasapano.

“The blame game goes on,” a woman exclaimed. “Just step down.”

“There is nothing new in his speech. He is still dodging the issues and passing the buck to other people,” said Lloyd Magsay, spokesperson for Anakbayan Manila who was at the gathering.

“He said this is the last time he would speak about the issue. That’s unacceptable, because he still has a lot to answer for,” he said.

The activists criticized Mr. Aquino for not apologizing and instead asking for public understanding.

“He asked for our understanding. So we will just tolerate that? In response, we ask him to understand the people, and just resign,” Magsay said.

The activists said they would stage community protests until March 30 to call for Mr. Aquino’s resignation.

Intrusion

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), a group of civil and human rights defenders, said Filipinos would never understand President Aquino as long as he refused to explain the reasons for his actions that led to Mamasapano.

“He deliberately and obstinately continues to skirt the issue of why he dealt with people who were not supposed to be in the loop and excluded people who were supposed to be,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said in a statement.

He said Mr. Aquino also failed to explain why he ordered an intrusion into a known territory of the MILF, a peace partner.

“[They were] armed to the teeth and [went there] in the dead of the night and then they expected a warm and hearty welcome?” he said. With reports from DJ Yap, Jerome Aning and Nathaniel R. Melican in Manila; Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao


PHILSTAR

PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson at PNPA rites By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 27, 2015 - 12:00am


Photo shows cadet Andal Ampatuan III receiving his diploma. WILLY PEREZ

MANILA, Philippines - The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).

Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. They will be automatically commissioned as officers in the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the former governor while his father is Akhmad Ampatuan, one of the accused who is now among those detained in Bicutan.

Aside from the Ampatuan patriarch, Ampatuan III’s uncle and namesake, former Unsay mayor Andal Jr., and another uncle, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy, are also locked up in Bicutan as principal accused in the massacre case.

Ampatuan III admitted there was pressure when he first entered the academy in 2011 as a cadet but people there came to see him as a person separate from the murder case.

READ MORE...
Ampatuan said he is thankful for completing the four-year education in the PNPA, which molds the character of every cadet as a person and public safety officer.

Mother Rebecca was there to celebrate the achievement. She said becoming a cadet at the PNPA has always been a dream of her son and she is very happy that he made this come true through hard work and determination.

“Before he was really affected but eventually he overcame and took it as a challenge,” she said, referring to the 2009 massacre that claimed the lives of 58 people.

“Actually, we are very proud because we have an Ampatuan as a PNP cadet. We are very proud, we could hardly express our feelings over this,” she said, adding there would be a small family celebration.

A Misuari

Another PNPA graduate is Cadet First Class Mohammadizar Caluang Misuari, from Sulu, but he clarified he is not related to fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief Nur Misuari.

“I’m not related to him. It so happened we have the same surname,” he said.

Although he is now a law enforcer and authorized to use firearms if necessary, the younger Misuari does not believe in armed confrontation. “For me peace talk, nothing else.”

Misuari said he has no idea yet where he would be assigned.

Idol and role model

The graduating cadets belonging to the “Lakandula” (LAhing KAyumanggi Na Handang I-alay sa Bayan ang DUgo at LAkas) Class are composed of 227 males and 20 females. One cadet did not join the graduation ceremony as he still had to fulfill requirements pursuant to infractions he had incurred.

Cadet 1st Class Dennis Yuson Jr. is the valedictorian.

In his valedictory speech, Yuson said the Mamasapano incident where 44 policemen were killed in a firefight with Muslim rebels last Jan. 25 would not be an obstacle to the goal of achieving peace.

Yuson said their batch would become instruments in enforcing the law and vowed to maintain the trust and confidence of the public in the police force.

Yuson, also the class president, said he was able to conquer all the challenges as a cadet and as class president by looking up to President Aquino as his idol and role model.

He also thanked his parents and siblings for all the support and for being an inspiration, especially his father and namesake Chief Insp. Dennis Yuson, who rose from the rank of PO1 to chief inspector currently assigned in Sultan Kudarat province.


PHILSTAR

2 months later, Aquino explains absence at SAF arrival honors By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated March 26, 2015 - 4:47pm


Members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force carry caskets bearing the bodies of slain SAF men at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. Ernie Peñaredondo

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday tried to justify his absence at the arrival honors for the Special Action Force commandos slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao two months ago.

In his speech at the 36th commencement exercises of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Academy, Aquino said he wanted to give the families the space to grieve during the arrival honors on January 29.

After drawing flak for snubbing the event, Aquino said it was not his intention to appear insensitive or unsympathetic.

"Ikinalulungkot kong sa pagnanais kong bigyan ng espasyong magluksa ang mga makakakita, sa unang pagkakataon, ng nasawi nilang kaanak, ay may mga nag-isip na ako'y manhid at walang pakikiramay. Ang intensiyon ko noon ay makatulong sa paghilom," Aquino said.

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The President also said that before meeting the families of the fallen SAF troopers, he wanted to know first the circumstances that lead to their death.

"Ang gusto ko po sana, kapag may nagtanong ng 'Ano ang nangyari? Bakit sila namatay? Ano na po ang mangyayari sa amin?' ay may dala na akong malinaw na sagot," Aquino said.

"Kung ang naging tugon ko sa mga katanungan ay “Hindi ko po alam,” paano ako makakatulong sa kanilang paghilom?" he added.

Instead of attending the arrival honors for 42 of the 44 fallen SAF members at the Villamor Air Base, Aquino graced the scheduled inauguration of the Mitsubishi Motors' plant in Santa Rosa City.

A Pulse Asia survey revealed last week that 79 percent of Filipinos disagree with the president's decision to snub the event in favor of the motor plant opening.

The same percentage also thinks that Aquino's explanation regarding the Mamasapano incident was not enough.

In his speech on Thursday, Aquino maintained that he was unable to immediately help the SAF troopers during the January 25 operation because he was fed with wrong information by police officials.


MANILA STANDARD

Lawmakers hit, laud President’s remarks By Maricel Cruz | Mar. 27, 2015 at 12:01am


Romualdez

THE leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives challenged President Benigno Aquino III Thursday to set an example for his much touted “straight path” in governance by admitting accountability and ending his blame game over the Jan. 25 Mamasapano bloodbath.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez expressed disappointment over what he said was the President’s continued attempts to wash his hands of responsibility in the Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed.

“They should stop the script because that is not the straight path and the people are very tired of it,” Romualdez said.

“Still, the President evades accountability when he stops short of saying sorry by appealing for public understanding. I am not surprised. It’s the same speech to excuse himself and his men from the responsibility over the Mamasapano debacle,” Romualdez said.

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Romualdez said there was no way out for the President but to apologize and be humble enough to admit his lapses.

“As I said before, it’s not late to say sorry,” Romualdez said.

“The President should also understand the ill-feelings of the grieving widows and loved ones of SAF 44 who are still seeking justice,” he added.

Romualdez slammed the President for maintaining so many strategists to keep him out of trouble when his term ends.

“The Palace has so many spin masters, and they mastered evading accountability to save the President from a deeper hole and spare him from legal problems after his term,” Romualdez said.

The President’s allies in Congress, however, said the President had done enough to own responsibility for the Mamaspano operation.

“I am satisfied with his explanation. It is time to move on,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told the Manila Standard in a text message.

Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal said it was unnecessary for the President to apologize.

His declaration that his speech Thursday would be the last time he would speak on the issue was a signal to everybody to move on and work towards serving justice to the victims and to make the peace process work, Banal added.

Senator Grace Poe, who prepared the Senate report that the President attacked, said Aquino’s speech Thursday as a step in the right direction.

“The President’s appeal for understanding coupled by his affirmation that the whole incident rests on his shoulder as President is a welcome development to start the healing process particularly among the bereaved families of the fallen SAF,” she said.

Senator Francis Escudero, an administration ally, said the President had said enough.

“I hope the public will accept the President’s owning responsibility and showing of humility. It is now in the hands of the Justice Department and the Ombudsman to file charges against those responsible,” Escudero said.

But another administration ally, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, disputed the President’s statement that the Senate report was based on speculation, and was in fact based on the testimony and documents submitted to the investigating panel.

“That allegation of speculation is speculation,” Cayetano said. “I think the President is not the best person to criticize the police board of inquiry and the Senate reports precisely because we were not empowered. The BOI was not empowered to do an exhaustive report, but was honest enough to do that by giving the limitations,” said Cayetano.

Cayetano added that the Senate panel was held back by claims by some top officials of national security concerns.

He added that the President’s appeal for understanding would have no effect until he gave justice to the families of the 44 slain police commandos.

Opposition Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the President’s speech was too little too late.

“The public and SAF families do not want excuses. They need to know the whole truth or the part they played in Oplan Exodus,” Marcos said, referring to the President and his men.

Senator JV Ejercito, also of the opposition, said he could not understand why the President would not apologize.

“Filipinos are generally very forgiving and understanding. His pride is unbelievable,” Ejercito said.

The left-wing youth group Anakbayan said the President’s speech was another insult to the Filipino people and accused the President of lying to protect himself and to cover up the role that the US played in the Mamasapano operation. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta


MANILA STANDARD

PNoy slams Senate, BOI investigations By Sandy Araneta | Mar. 27, 2015 at 12:01am


Commencement exercises. President Benigno Aquino III sits with Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 36th commencement exercises at the Philippine National Police Academy in Silang, Cavite, on Thursday. Danny Pata

IGNORING calls for a public apology, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday slammed the Senate and the police board of inquiry for basing their reports on the Mamasapano debacle on speculation.

Speaking to graduates of Philippine National Police Academy in Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite, Aquino said it saddened him that those who prepared the reports chose to speculate on the events that led to deaths of 44 police commandos in the covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, instead of asking him questions.

Despite this criticism, Aquino said the two reports answered many of the questions in the minds of the public.

“Both reports agree with our initial statements about certain details of the operation. In fact, the two reports reaffirm the position we had taken from the very beginning: The lack of coordination with the AFP was a major mistake,” said Aquino.

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But the draft of the joint committee report from the Senate also said the President was “ultimately responsible” for the Mamasapano incident after he allowed then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to participate in Operation Exodus.

The police board of inquiry, on the other hand, said the President broke the chian of command when he went through Purisima, who was already suspended on corruption charges at the time of the operation.

“What saddens me is that at times, in lieu of asking me questions, those who prepared the reports chose to speculate instead. This leads us to ask: How can guesswork, instead of facts, help clarify this issue?” Aquino said.

At the same time, Aquino said, there were many other matters that needed his attention.

“I am responsible for the 100 million Filipinos here at home and abroad. Yes, I am the President, but I am also human. I cannot read the mind of every person in front of me, and I cannot personally monitor every situation. But as I have promised, I will continue to do what is right and just,” said Aquino.

“I will continue to exert every effort to serve all of you and to faithfully fulfill my sworn mandate. I am not saying that I am like God, who knows everything, but I have a duty to right whatever wrong I discover,” said Aquino, who promised that those responsible for the Mamasapano incident would be held accountable.

Aquino said this would be the last time he would speak on the Mamasapano case, except when those concerned needed clarification from him.

Aquino had given two national addresses on the Mamasapano debacle, but his critics said each speech raised more questions and made matters worse.

“I hope you will allow me to share my own point of view to shedmlight on the context behind the decisions I made in relation to the incident in Mamasapano. It is your right to know the whole truth. After all, it is often said that the truth shall set us all free,” Aquino said.

He said perhaps the most important question he must answer is one that asked by a father of a slain police commando.

“Why did you allow my son to go there? Why did you let him die?” Aquino said.

But the President said words would not suffice to explain the deaths of the brave policemen, and no report or speech could reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who has lost a son.

“All I can do, after saying all that must be said, and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding,” said Aquino.

“To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with the abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” he said.

Regardless of his anger he felt when his orders were disregarded, or his regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from him, he can never erase the fact that the 44 SAF commandos died under his watch, Aquino said.

“I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave,” the embattled President said.

In defending his actions on previous occasions, the President blamed Purisima and sacked PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas for lying to him or giving him the wrong information, and for disregard his orders to coordinate with the Armed Forces.

“Today, I say this once more: As President, I am fully responsible for any result—any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy—that may be borne of our desire for lasting security and peace,” he said.

The President said he is sad there are families who are now without a husband, a father, a brother, a son, because of what happened in Mamasapano.

The President said he is saddened that, despite his effort to give the families space to grieve, as they were to meet their fallen loved ones for the first time, some people criticized him for failing to attend the arrival rites of the bodies in Villamor Air Base.

The President said his intention in staying away was to help them heal.

“I wanted to have clear answers should I be asked: ‘What happened? Why did they die? What will happen to us now?’ If my response was ‘I do not know,’ how could I help hasten the healing?” Aquino said.

The President said he is also sad that the peace process has been affected by the sentiments over the Mamasapano incident.

The deaths of the 44 police commandos at the hands of fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed groups has stalled congressional hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the lynchpin in the government’s peace agreement with the MILF.


MANILA STANDARD

PNoy orders own BBL review By Sandy Araneta | Mar. 28, 2015 at 12:01am


PNoy

EVEN as Congress considers the Palace’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday called on “citizen leaders” to convene a national peace summit to review the measure that lawmakers have found to be replete with constitutional infirmities.

Aquino made the call in a national television address marking the first anniversary of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law is one of the most important proposed bills of our administration,” Aquino said in his address where he also warned lawmakers to pass the bill or start counting “body bags.”

He warned it would be difficult to restart peace talks if the current process failed and the MILF leadership lost its influence among its members to more radical elements.

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Aquino said he is fully aware that the Mamasapano incident last January 25, where 44 Special Action Force troopers died, have sowed doubt in the minds of Filipinos and has supposedly pushed aside the objective evaluation of the BBL.

“To address this, I am inviting citizen leaders known for their wisdom and integrity to stand as independent convenors,” said Aquino.

He named those who will be convening the peace summit as Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former Ambassador Howard Dee and peace advocate Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

Aquino said they will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead the national peace summit to “deliberate on and discuss the BBL” which is already being considered by legislators who have criticized many provisions as unconstitutional.

“If the proposed bill is lacking, it can be addressed by pushing through with the debates on it. With the continuation of hearings about the BBL in Congress, each one is given an opportunity to understand the proposed bill,” he said.

“We believe an initiative that arose out of good intentions can be fixed by those who likewise have good intentions towards their fellowmen,” said Aquino.

The citizen leaders, Aquino said, will “dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness.”

“This way, the BBL can be improved. They will write a report that will be made public, so that everyone may be informed, and so that more of our countrymen may understand the matter. In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Aquino said.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the national peace summit was meant to “enrich the quality of the democratic dialogue and hopefully lead our representatives in Congress to a deeper understanding of the imperative of promoting the peace process in Mindanao.”

Coloma said the summit was envision to be “a private sector initiative that will be funded by them, too.”

But neither Aquino nor Coloma specified how the proposed national peace summit would affect the ongoing congressional deliberations on the measure.

Instead, Aquino said lawmakers should pass the bill or they would start counting “body bags”.

“I do not pursue peace just to add to my legacy. What we are pursuing is a genuine peace that truly addresses the roots of the problems that led to violence. At this point in our history, I say to all of you: The BBL will make this a reality,” Aquino said.

Aquino had wanted the bill, which would give autonomy to the majority Catholic nation’s Muslim minority in the south, passed this month.

But Congress suspended debates on the proposed law in the face of public outrage over the killings of 44 police commandoes by Muslim guerrillas in a botched anti-terror raid in January.

“This is the crossroads we face: we take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow,” Aquino said in a nationwide television address.

“Perhaps it is easy for you to push for all-out war,” he said, hitting out at critics who have condemned the peace deal with the MILF.

“But if the conflict grows, the number of Filipinos shooting at other Filipinos will grow, and it would not be out of the question that a friend or loved one be one of the people who will end up inside a body bag.” – With AFP


MANILA STANDARD OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT AQUINO III

An open letter to the President Mar. 29, 2015 at 12:01am By Laurence Hector B. Arroyo

Dear Mr. President:

The time has arrived for you to own up to the Mamasapano incident. You must apologize.

Apologize for your incomplete grasp of the nature of the chain of command that governs and binds the AFP and PNP hierarchies. The chain of command required you to deal directly with the AFP Chief of Staff and the PNP Chief, but, for reasons of your own, you chose to deal directly with the suspended PNP Chief and the 2-star SAF Commander. You can bypass, as in fact you did, the chain of command except that when you do so, you create confusion among those who have, throughout their professional lives, rigorously observed such chain. Orders go down the chain of command and not the other way around.

Apologize for sending men on a mission which, from its inception, was already compromised by the peace process. You wanted the best of both worlds. You wanted to capture a terrorist in enemy territory but at the same time you wanted to preserve the peace. You did not have the foresight to realize that you could not have both, so that when battle broke out, as it foreseeably would, the 44 found themselves immolated on the altar of peace.

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If you won’t apologize for your participation in the ill-conceived mission and for screwing up the chain of command, at least apologize for your conduct in the aftermath of the disaster. Dealing with a suspended PNP Chief in an operation as sensitive and large as Oplan Exodus merely betrayed a lack of good judgment. On the other hand, your conduct in the days after Mamasapano exposed a greater flaw —a flaw in character.

Apologize for not speaking to the nation sooner. Forty-four of your finest men were killed in action in the service of country, while you, the Commander-in-Chief, went missing in action at a time when the nation needed you most. The SAF 44 fell by the afternoon of January 25. Yet, we did not hear your voice until four days later. And even then, you had not much to say and little emotion to show.

Apologize too for your piecemeal, selective and less than candid disclosures. For the longest time, you chose to keep silent. Then, when the clamor for answers became too loud to ignore, you declared that the hapless Gen. Napeñas deceived you.

A few weeks later, with your popularity rating at an all-time low, you claimed that suspended PNP Chief Purisima let you down. In this instance, failure was not an orphan. It was, at least according to you, fathered by Purisima and Napeñas. You were a triumvirate but only up until Marwan was killed in the wee hours of January 25 because until then, the mission was a success. The moment the fields of Mamasapano turned red, however, you denied your paternity and took to describing the police operation as “Mission Impossible”.

But above all, apologize for not being at Villamor Airbase. You flew to Zamboanga in the morning of January 25, ready to take credit for what was supposed to be the glorious capture of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. But where were you when your men came home as corpses?

You are (were) their Commander-in-Chief. You sent them into battle. They died for the sake of the mission and for country. You owed it to them to meet them at the tarmac of Villamor Air Base. You owed it to them to stand tall and grim and straight under the bright sun, amidst the tears of their families and the nation. Your men and their families were not asking for much. They were only asking that you be there when the cargo planes touched the ground and stay there until the 44th casket was delivered from their bowels.

Your spokesperson Abigail Valte explained that you had a previous engagement to visit a car plant in Laguna and that, anyway, you were scheduled to attend the necrological services the following day.

When your men die, the world should stop, if only for a few minutes. When your brother or son or father dies and his remains are brought home, you rush to the airport. You do not say I have to go to a car plant. You do not say I’ll be there tomorrow. The dead cannot wait. You have to be there when they arrive. You have to remain there until the last casket is unloaded.

A president who has the power to send men into combat and to their deaths certainly has the power to cancel a visit to a car plant. The choice was not between being present at Villamor and at the necrological services. You should have been present at both.

You call them heroes but you did not give them a hero’s welcome. You claim to be their father, but you did not treat them as sons.

Above all, apologize to the SAF families for your painful words. When a wife who has just lost her husband in battle asks you why the Government did not retaliate with airstrikes, you do not say, “naglalaro ka ba ng computer?”

When a young widow asks you how she can get justice for her dead husband, you do not say, “Anong gusto n’yo gawin ko, kunin natin ang fingerprint ng mga kalaban?” Nor do you say, “Namatay rin ang tatay ko, alam ko ang pakiramdam niyo kaya patas na rin tayo ngayon.” This was not about you but about them.

This was not about the death of your father, but about the death of their husbands and sons.

By all means, tell them that you recognize the depths of their grief but do not tell them that you are even.

Understand that in the morning of January 25, their husbands were still alive and that, before the day could end, all 44 had fallen. If they were persistent, you owed it to them to be patient.

If they were angry, you owed it to them to show understanding. If they had questions, you owed it to them to answer their questions in a presidential manner. If there was any time where you were expected to be at your most presidential, this was the time. You were not talking to children. You were talking to the widows of heroes—broken, grieving, uncomprehending widows.

It is ironic that the mission was labeled “Oplan Exodus”. Exodus is a story about deliverance from oppression and death. In any event, even Moses, I am sure, would have apologized to his people had the Red Sea come crashing down on them instead of on the pursuing Egyptians.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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