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SAF 44 HEARING: FORMER COP URGED SENATE SUBPOENA ALL DOCUMENTS - PAPER TRAIL WILL DETERMINE GUILT


JANUARY 27 -Remembering the fallen. ARMM officials and employees remember the 44 Special Action Force members, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front and five civilians who died in Mamasapano last year. OMAR MANGORSI
A FORMER police intelligence director urged the Senate to subpoena all the documents related to Operation Exodus, the covert operation that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year, to determine President Benigno Aquino III’s culpability in the debacle.
Retired police Chief Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza, president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, issued the call one day before the Senate reopens its hearings on the Mamasapano massacre “It is proper to determine… who directly approved the project and funding,” Mendoza said, adding that these documents could no longer be kept secret on the basis of national security and should be declassified. In Mamasapano last year, the SAF contingent hunting two high-profile terrorists were pinned down and slaughtered by Muslim rebels, including fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with which the government is in peace talks. The Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Central Mindanao did not respond to the commandos’ pleas for artillery support and assistance. In his Senate testimony last year, former SAF director Getulio Napeñas said he and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima had briefed the President on Oplan Exodus. The Senate committee on public order headed by Senator Grace Poe had found the President to be “ultimately responsible” for the deaths of the 44 police commandos, but the hearings were reopened after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said he had new evidence of Aquino’s direct hand in the botched operation. Mendoza said in particular that any documents that passed through the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa should be declassified and examined. The ruling Liberal Party said Tuesday that it sees nothing wrong if the Senate plays an audio recording of a conversation between a ranking government official and a lawmaker that purportedly showed an attempt to cover up the events in Mamasapano so as not to endanger the passage of the Palace-backed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress. “I don’t know what the recording contains. But if that would help in the investigation and there is relevance and legal basis, why not?” said Rep. Barry Gutierrez, spokesman for the administration’s presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II. But the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said it was considering legal action against those in possession of the recording, supposedly of a conversation between Peace Advisor Teresita Deles and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “Anyone who recorded the audio without expressed permission from those identified in it can be prosecuted for violation of the law,” said OPAPP legal consultant Jomer Aquino. READ MORE...

ALSO: Senate probers want Mamasapano recording/ BBL confirmed dead
[Drilon cited section 4 of RA 4200 that he said states that “any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.” Angara said those who wanted the recording to form part of evidence in their investigation will have to come forward and yield the material to Poe’s panel. “There’s nothing barring them from doing that,” he said. Marcos said the proceedings last Wednesday further magnified the purported liability of President Aquino based on ]the line of questioning of Enrile.]


JANUARY 29 -The Senate’s probe on the Mamasapano debacle may not be over afterall, after the Senate committee on public order chaired by Sen. Grace Poe indicated that it has considered looking into the alleged wiretapped conversation of a senator and a ranking government official discussing purported plans to cover up in the botched operation of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao last year. Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday said he does not see any legal problem in even playing the taped conversation, especially if there will be no complainants or if the supposed parties involved will not try to block it from being made public. “It depends on the appreciation of the members of the committee. Each members have their own take, there are those who wanted it played while there are those citing the Anti-Wiretapping Law which prohibits it from playing. But I think, if there are no complainants it can be made public,” he said in a radio interview. Even without having to play it publicly, Angara, who is a lawyer by profession, said the material can be looked into, if they want to. “It can be done,” he said. It is still not ascertained who among the senators were in the recorded conversation although Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. admitted that a recording was made of his conversation with Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles a day after the Mamasapano incident in which Deles was pleading for Marcos not to delay the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as a result of the Mamasapano carnage. Senate sources, however, said the controversial recording is between Senate President Franklin Drilon and Deles. Drilon was adamant about blocking the recording from being heard in the Senate inquiry. “No one is above the law and even senators who craft the laws of the land are bound to respect and abide by them,” Drilon said as he stressed that the alleged Mamasapano audio recording is covered by the provisions of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act. “The Senate is not above the law. The senators should abide by the law. What I am saying is that the law is so clear and precise that it leaves no room for misinterpretation,” Drilon said. Drilon cited section 4 of RA 4200 that he said states that “any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.” “The law explicitly includes legislative investigations as among the forum wherein illegally obtained communication and information cannot be used in evidence,” Drilon said.
The existence of the digital audio recording was not discussed during Wednesday’s re-investigation on the Mamasapano incident. READ MORE...BBL confirmed dead....

ALSO: JPE: PNoy hiding behind his men
[
As the seven-hour session was drawing to a close, Enrile threw a question at the police and military generals in the Session Hall. “Woud you act if there is no order and your President is the one commanding? My question to all of you is if a project was compartmented by the President, will you interfere if he has no order?” the 91-year-old senator asked. Senate President Franklin Drilon, a close ally of the President, stood up and insisted that Aquino was never involved in planning Oplan Exodus.]


JANUARY 28 -SENATOR Juan Ponce Ernile on Wednesday attacked President Benigno Aquino III for hiding behind others to shield himself from responsibility for the deaths of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano last year, but the Palace and its allies said he failed to produce new evidence as he promised. In Wednesday’s resumption of the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano massacre, Enrile spelled out Aquino’s eight sins in the ill-fated Operation Exodus in which the Special Action Force commandos were killed by Muslim rebels. The hearing continues. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile fields questions during the continuation of the hearing on the Mamasapano debacle at the Senate on Wednesday. Lino Santos Although the record showed that the President “actively and directly” participated in the planning and preparation for the operation, he evaded any responsibility and accountability and used his friend, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to shield him from blame. By questioning those involved in the operation before the Senate committee on public order, Enrile concluded that the President had authorized and “compartmented” the operation, keeping knowledge of it only to himself and Purisima; and that he had full knowledge of what was going on during its execution. Enrile said he also “wantonly” disregarded the command systems of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines by dealing with Purisima, who at the time was not an active part of the command system because he was suspended on corruption charges. Finally, he said, President Aquino failed to issue any order or take any effective action as President of the republic “to prevent the barbaric slaying and slaughter of the PNP-SAF troopers.”  As proof of the President’s direct hand in Oplan Exodus, Enrile cited a briefing that Purisima and then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas gave Aquino in Bahay Pangarap on Jan. 9, 2015. At one point in the hearing, Enrile read back text messages that the President had sent to Purisima, noting that he was more interested in the body of the terrorist Marwan and the fate of the other targets of the operation than in the safety of the police commandos. In fact, he said, none of the text messages Aquino sent asked about the men, Enrile said. Enrile also expressed doubts over Purisima’s claim that the briefing was held merely to keep the President informed, and noted that it was Aquino who had suggested the SAF devote more commandos to the operation. “If he was not involved, he had no role except to just listen and say nothing,” Enrile told Purisima as the former police chief was being questioned by Senator Nancy Binay. When Purisima insisted that they were just keeping the President informed about an operation with high-value targets, Enrile blurted out: “Someone is lying here in front of us in the Senate! This is an insult to the institution.”  As the seven-hour session was drawing to a close, Enrile threw a question at the police and military generals in the Session Hall. “Woud you act if there is no order and your President is the one commanding? My question to all of you is if a project was compartmented by the President, will you interfere if he has no order?” the 91-year-old senator asked. Senate President Franklin Drilon, a close ally of the President, stood up and insisted that Aquino was never involved in planning Oplan Exodus. “There is nothing in the testimony that the President [got involved] in the manner that is being presented,” Drilon said in the President’s defense. He emphasized that from the very start, Napeñas had said that it was his plan and he executed it. Asked if he thought the Senate committee on public order might change its report, Enrile said no, and that he merely focused the discussion on the President’s responsibility and accountability. He said the “new matters” he wanted to bring up were the text messages between the President and Purisima. Enrile rejected the President’s claim that he was misinformed. “They have huge intelligence funds. Why did they not foresee that this could happen to their men in the field?” Enrile said he was satisfied with the hearing because it focused attention on the President’s responsibility, something that was not done in the previous hearings. Now it was up to the law enforcement officials to do their job, he added. READ MORE... RELATED, Noy blames cops; Aquino also ‘impatient’ for justice to be done...

ALSO: SAF 44 would still be alive if PNoy did not mess up – Marcos


JANUARY 28 -HAD President Benigno Aquino 3rd observed standard operating procedure (SOP) in launching police operations like Oplan Exodus, the 44 police commandos slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, would still be alive today, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday. “It was very clear that because the President disregarded the procedures in the planning and execution of the operation and chain of command, the massacre happened,” Marcos noted in an interview after his consultation with local officials of Marikina City (Metro Manila). He said although no bombshell was dropped during the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano bloodbath, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile was able to show more clearly the role played by Aquino in the operation and how he handled it. Marcos added that the main focus of reopening the Senate investigation was to find out what really happened and Enrile was able to accomplish it. “Clearly, there was a lack of coordination brought by the decision of the President to keep the operation secret to other officials of government even to the officer-in-charge of the PNP [Philippine National Police],” he pointed out. Cabinet and security officials present during the hearing claimed that Aquino was not aware of the real situation of the SAF troops deployed in Maguindanao to capture suspected terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, because no clear information reached him that day. But Marcos maintained that it was unlikely for Aquino not to get information regarding the status of the operation and the condition of the troops.“There were text messages and exchanges of information among Cabinet and security officials as early as 5 a.m. that day, and they were even discussing it,” he said. Marcos also noted that if the President did not know what was happening on January 25, 2015, it would only mean that he was not monitoring the operation that he put in place without the knowledge of the police and the military.READ MORE...


ALSO: Senators - End blame game; Animosity between PNP, AFP resurfaces at reopening of Mamasapano hearing


JANUARY 29 -Senator Escudero yesterday sought an end to the blame game between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the death of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos last year.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he noted that even during the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the bloody Mamasapano operation last Wednesday, police and military officials still pointed fingers at each other on who was to blame for the botched operation. “Since we started the hearing and until now, our officials are still pointing fingers at each other. Command responsibility is important and I believe in it. But it seems everyone is making command but no one is accepting any responsibility,” said Escudero, who is running for vice president in the coming May national elections. He said that the joint hearing, led by Senate Committee on Public Order chair Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, again highlighted the lack of intelligence, poor planning and coordination, and failure of communications between and among key law enforcement agencies from the beginning up to the extraction of the last SAF trooper trapped at the battle scene in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. During the hearing last Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile blamed President Aquino for compartmentalizing the operation, limiting the details and planning of Oplan Exodus to a few number of people, including himself and then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and SAF Director General Getulio Napeñas. But Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it was actually Napeñas who acted alone. He said the former SAF chief disobeyed President Aquino’s order to coordinate with the military about the anti-terror mission. He added that such order from the President’s should not be considered an interference but a mere guidance to ensure the success of the operation. Enrile also accused the President of deliberately keeping other Cabinet officials, the AFP and PNP leadership out of the loop. While the operation successfully neutralized Malaysian terrorist Zulkilfi bin Hir or “Marwan” who is one of the targets of the operation it resulted in dire consequences. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

‘Paper trail will determine guilt’


Remembering the fallen. ARMM officials and employees remember the 44 Special Action Force members, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front and five civilians who died in Mamasapano last year. OMAR MANGORSI

MANILA, FEBRUARY 1, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted January 27, 2016 at 12:01 am by Francisco Tuyay, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta - A FORMER police intelligence director urged the Senate to subpoena all the documents related to Operation Exodus, the covert operation that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year, to determine President Benigno Aquino III’s culpability in the debacle.

Retired police Chief Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza, president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, issued the call one day before the Senate reopens its hearings on the Mamasapano massacre

“It is proper to determine… who directly approved the project and funding,” Mendoza said, adding that these documents could no longer be kept secret on the basis of national security and should be declassified.

In Mamasapano last year, the SAF contingent hunting two high-profile terrorists were pinned down and slaughtered by Muslim rebels, including fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with which the government is in peace talks.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Central Mindanao did not respond to the commandos’ pleas for artillery support and assistance.


 former SAF director Getulio Napeñas

In his Senate testimony last year, former SAF director Getulio Napeñas said he and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima had briefed the President on Oplan Exodus.

The Senate committee on public order headed by Senator Grace Poe had found the President to be “ultimately responsible” for the deaths of the 44 police commandos, but the hearings were reopened after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said he had new evidence of Aquino’s direct hand in the botched operation.

Mendoza said in particular that any documents that passed through the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa should be declassified and examined.

The ruling Liberal Party said Tuesday that it sees nothing wrong if the Senate plays an audio recording of a conversation between a ranking government official and a lawmaker that purportedly showed an attempt to cover up the events in Mamasapano so as not to endanger the passage of the Palace-backed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

“I don’t know what the recording contains. But if that would help in the investigation and there is relevance and legal basis, why not?” said Rep. Barry Gutierrez, spokesman for the administration’s presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.

But the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said it was considering legal action against those in possession of the recording, supposedly of a conversation between Peace Advisor Teresita Deles and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.


DELES, MARCOS

“Anyone who recorded the audio without expressed permission from those identified in it can be prosecuted for violation of the law,” said OPAPP legal consultant Jomer Aquino.

READ MORE...

Deles and Marcos Jr. denied as early as last year that they discussed a cover-up of the incident because of its supposed implications on the peace agreement between the government and the MILF, and on the proposed BBL.

On Saturday, retired police chief superintendent Diosdado Valeroso said that he has in his possession a digital audio recording of a conversation that took place “a day or two” after 44 members of the Special Action Force were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao about an attempt to cover up the Mamasapano massacre.

“People who wanted again to hit the administration through the peace process, released and shared under false headline the recording of my meeting with Senator Marcos, making it appear that the conversation was about a whitewash and a cover-up instead of an innocent conversation about the incident in which it was clear that we were both trying to make sense of what happened, given the details available at that time, and concluded with an agreement to wait for more information,” Deles said in a statement.

Deles said she welcomed the reopening of the Senate investigation but cautioned lawmakers to make it factual—and said it should not affect the BBL being pushed by Aquino and the MILF.

“If we are going to reopen because there are issues still to be addressed, all questions should focus there. I am hoping that it will be factual and it will help to [give the] big picture of what really happened,” Deles said.

She reiterated that allegations about her attempt to cover up the massacre were false.

“It was a disservice then, as it is a disservice now to our people to mislead, confuse and lie to them,” Deles said.

The Senate panel reopens its investigation Wednesday, with Enrile promising to drop a bombshell that would directly link President Aquino to the deaths last year of the 44 police commandos.

Lawmakers were discussing whether to release the contents of the executive sessions on the Mamasapano clash that were never made public last year.

But Gutierrez cautioned against their disclosure, saying they could be used to ruin the chances of some presidential candidates.

“What’s their justification? In the end, it’s the decision of the members of the committee. I’m sure that the decision to declare an executive session was not taken lightly when it was done before, and so equally now, the decision to reveal the contents of the executive sessions should be done in a likely similar process, and we hope that it won’t be politicized for vested political interests of the personalities involved,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez had earlier said that Poe will use the reopening of the Senate proceedings on the Mamasapano massacre to benefit her ambition to become president.

The Mamasapano massacre took a heavy toll on the President’s trust and approval ratings last year. These ratings have gone up again in the last few months.

In the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., a staunch Aquino ally, said it was time for the country “to move on” one year after the Mamasapano massacre.

But he said it was also “time for the prosecution people to do their job thoroughly”—referring to the filing of charges against 90 Muslim rebels who took part in the massacre.

Belmonte said the House, which has not even released its report from last year, is unlikely to reopen its own investigation.

He said the joint House committees on public order and safety, and peace reconciliation and unity would release their report before Congress goes on break on Feb. 5.

“The chairmen assure me that they will release their report on the Mamasapano incident before we adjourn,” Belmonte said.

The joint committee conducted three hearings on the massacre last year.

The militant group Anakbayan on Tuesday urged the Senate to compel Aquino to attend the hearings and to reveal his role in the botched covert operation.

“Let’s stop the blame-game and denials. Aquino should admit his real role in the actual planning, preparations, and first-person directing of the Mamasapano operation. Unfortunately for Aquino, that would mean landing in jail after his term ends,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo. With Joel E. Zurbano

Senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez (photo) urged the President and his officials to be transparent and to resist the urge to cover up their role in the tragedy.

Romualdez also said the administration must “squarely and fortrightly” address the concerns of the SAF families, including the benefits and assistance due them.

Romualdez called on the President to stop blaming others for the botched operation and instead offer a blow-by-blow account of everything he did on the day of the Mamasapano massacre.

“Whether he accepts it or not, the buck stops at him since he was the commander-in-chief of SAF 44. There will never be a closure to the Mamasapano massacre unless President Aquino completes the picture,” he said.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said the Justice Department owes it to the family of the victims, and to the public in general, to explain why a year after that tragic incident no formal charges have been filed in court against those responsible.

“Even if they are not formally invited to testify in the Senate hearing they can simply submit to us a report on the status of the case so we can all know why it’s taking them so long to file appropriate charges in court,” he added.

Newly appointed acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas earlier denied the department was sitting on the case and promised a resolution would be out soon. With Joel E. Zurbano


TRIBUNE

Senate probers want Mamasapano recording Written by Angie M. Rosales Friday, 29 January 2016

The Senate’s probe on the Mamasapano debacle may not be over afterall, after the Senate committee on public order chaired by Sen. Grace Poe indicated that it has considered looking into the alleged wiretapped conversation of a senator and a ranking government official discussing purported plans to cover up in the botched operation of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao last year.

Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday said he does not see any legal problem in even playing the taped conversation, especially if there will be no complainants or if the supposed parties involved will not try to block it from being made public.

“It depends on the appreciation of the members of the committee. Each members have their own take, there are those who wanted it played while there are those citing the Anti-Wiretapping Law which prohibits it from playing. But I think, if there are no complainants it can be made public,” he said in a radio interview.

Even without having to play it publicly, Angara, who is a lawyer by profession, said the material can be looked into, if they want to.

“It can be done,” he said.

It is still not ascertained who among the senators were in the recorded conversation although Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. admitted that a recording was made of his conversation with Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles a day after the Mamasapano incident in which Deles was pleading for Marcos not to delay the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as a result of the Mamasapano carnage.

Senate sources, however, said the controversial recording is between Senate President Franklin Drilon and Deles.

Drilon was adamant about blocking the recording from being heard in the Senate inquiry.

“No one is above the law and even senators who craft the laws of the land are bound to respect and abide by them,” Drilon said as he stressed that the alleged Mamasapano audio recording is covered by the provisions of Republic Act 4200 or the Anti-Wiretapping Act.

“The Senate is not above the law. The senators should abide by the law. What I am saying is that the law is so clear and precise that it leaves no room for misinterpretation,” Drilon said.
 



Drilon cited section 4 of RA 4200 that he said states that “any communication or spoken word, or the existence, contents, substance, purport, or meaning of the same or any part thereof, or any information therein contained obtained or secured by any person in violation of the preceding sections of this Act shall not be admissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.”

“The law explicitly includes legislative investigations as among the forum wherein illegally obtained communication and information cannot be used in evidence,” Drilon said.

The existence of the digital audio recording was not discussed during Wednesday’s re-investigation on the Mamasapano incident.

READ MORE...

“Nobody presented it as evidence to the committee. What I’ve heard so far was that there were some individuals who wanted to present this recording and they were directed to have it coursed through the office of (Minority Leader) Sen. (Juan Ponce) Enrile. I just don’t know what happened, if it was turned over or not,” he said.

Angara said those who wanted the recording to form part of evidence in their investigation will have to come forward and yield the material to Poe’s panel.

“There’s nothing barring them from doing that,” he said.

Marcos said the proceedings last Wednesday further magnified the purported liability of President Aquino based on the line of questioning of Enrile.

While most of the senators expressed views that there’s no new revelations in the said hearing, Marcos leaned toward the position of Enrile saying that the answers given by dismissed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, former and current officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and some Cabinet members proved that the President had been made aware of the incident even in the early hours of the firefight before the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were slaughtered.

“The text exchanges proved that they have been talking about the operation all day that day. So how can they claim that they did not know that the SAF members were already dead by 1 p.m.?,” he pointed out.

Marcos shared the contention of Enrile that Aquino was on top of the operation and compartmentalized the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus to himself and Purisima, then already suspended from being chief PNP.



“I do not buy the claim that he (Aquino) knew very little about it. The (Mamasapano operation) was the reason he was in Zamboanga City that day, to monitor the operation. This was established in the previous hearings but was corroborated through text exchanges, even of other officials who were with him in Zamboanga that day,” the senator said.

“We have text exchanges going on from 4:30 in the morning of Sunday all the way until 7 p.m. on Sunday with the President involved. So how can he say he did not know? If it is true that he does not know, then he is not monitoring properly the operation that he put in place and implemented, without the knowledge of the AFP and PNP,” Marcos pointed out.

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero could only lament on the continuing finger-pointing between the AFP and the PNP on the Mamasapano incident, even after a year has passed, as to who should take responsibility for the deaths of 44 SAF members.
The joint hearing last Wednesday once again highlighted the lack of intelligence, poor planning and coordination, and failure of communications between and among government agencies to ensure the success of the operation from the beginning up to the extraction of the last SAF trooper trapped in the area, he said.

Dubbed Oplan Exodus, the operation successfully took down wanted international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, but left 44 members of the police commando dead during a gunbattle with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups, as they were withdrawing.

Escudero said it would have been more acceptable if at least one of these security officials admitted command responsibility for what had happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.

He, however, said it was never too late for them to take responsibility for the tragedy so they themselves and the country can move on.

Napenas, AFP word war

A word war started between the AFP and sacked Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas triggered by the exchanges of information during the Senate hearing last Wednesday.


PADILLA

At a press briefing, Col. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman of the AFP, stressed there was “failure of leadership and commandership” during the launching of Operation Plan (Oplan) “Exodus” on Jan. 25, 2015.

Padilla said that the military move was for the AFP troops who are wrongly accused of not providing support to the beleaguered SAF commandos in barangays Tukanalipao and Pidsandawan, Mamasapano.

Napeñas fired back saying Oplan Exodus ended up with the death of the SAF 44 due to the President’s inaction.

“They are pointing everything to me. Of course, I did have shortcomings but knowing that the President was knowledgeable of the situation and knowing that he has the power to coordinate with the (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to cease firing and to actually direct the available reinforcements to move and help my men, I guess it is right to say that he’s liable still,” Napeñas said.

Aquino’s position backed by his administration and the AFP that the entire blame on the tragic death of the SAF operatives should be shouldered by Napeñas.

“The decision of the Armed Forces to reveal all is for the interest of our troops who were involved in the rescue during the Mamasapano incident. The Armed Forces is being blamed but that was not really what happened,” said Padilla.

During the Senate hearing, the AFP presented a video footage of SAF commandos on standby along a highway being asked by Army troops about the location of their (SAF) engaged comrades.

The AFP also showed s photograph on Napeñas, wearing civilian clothes and smiling, at the height of the execution of Oplan “Exodus.”


The picture was allegedly taken around 4:14 pm on January 25, 2015. A narration from De Leon while the image was being flashed on the screen described the police officials in the photo as ‘detached from the reality of the SAF operation’ and ‘unaware of the magnitude of the SAF casualties.’ The AFP official added that Napeñas, being in civilian attire, suggested he had ‘no intention to lead from the front’. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY AFP, INQUIRER NEWS FILE

For his part, Napeñas continued to blame the AFP for not providing immediate artillery support to the commandos of the 84th and 55th Special Action Companies (SACs) pinned down by combined Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups (PAGs).

Oplan “Exodus” resulted in the killing of 44 SAF commandos and 22 MILF, BIFF and PAG members.

“Clearly, there was failure of leadership and commandership,” said Padilla.

The AFP spokesman cited the slow provision by the SAF to the military of vital information that could have resulted in a more prompt and proper action.

Padilla, however, maintained that there is no animosity between the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“I just want to stress that there is no animosity between the Armed Forces and the PNP. We are solid and our coordination is stronger,” said Padilla.

The former SAF chief, however, scored the AFP’s prepared report before the Senate that concluded that he was incompetent as leader of the SAF.


Napeñas

“What kind of conclusion was that? Just because I was smililing, I was incompetent? The AFP’s PowerPoint presentation is just an opinion of some commanders in the ground, and is not of the AFP as an institution,” he said.

“The way they presented their accusations against me reveal the true identities of those AFP officials,” the retired SAF director hinted.

Napeñas also said that is unfair to set claims that he was not prepared with back-up plans if ever an unwanted retaliation takes place.

“I was there for 15 years in Mindanao and I am aware and prepared of the dangers. We keenly and meticulously prepared for the operation and that we never lacked in doing tactical plans,” he said.

Napeñas also answered incumbent PNP Chief Ricardo Marquez who noted upon interrogation before the Senate that the SAF director did not have a full scale contingency planning.
 


Ricardo Marquez is new PNP chief

“With respect to General Marquez, my mistah, he’s talking about a standard police operation, that’s different from the Oplan Exodus which is a special police operation that targets an international terrorist,” Napeñas said.

“As far as I’m concerned, we did our best to neutralize (Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan),” he added.

But for militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabyan (Bayan), the uniformed officials’ blame game and silence are accordingly zippered by the $5 million bounty over Marwan.

“The reward money may be one of the reasons there is apparent animosity between the officials of the AFP and PNP. If so, kawawa talaga ang mga foot soldiers na ipinapasubo sa kapahamakan para lang sa “war on terror” ng US at sa perang kukubrahin lang ng matataas na opisyal,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a text message.

“None of the officials seemed capable of giving straight answers concerning the $5M bounty offered by the US government for Marwan. That’s about P235M, a big amount. Seems very unlikely for top officials to be clueless about the source of the huge amount,” he added.

Reyes opined that it is unlikely for top officials to just allow such a huge sum to be given to an “informer”, whose identity could never be disclosed, adding that Purisima’s statement on where the $5 million bounty came from “is the height of stupidity”.

“It is very unlikely that Pursima only “assumes” that the money came from the US. Officials were feigning ignorance,” he added.

BBL confirmed dead



Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. yesterday announced that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is dead.

Belmonte made the statement after Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, a staunch advocate of BBL, admitted during his emotional speech last Wednesday that Congress can no longer pass the peace measure with only three remaining session days before it adjourns next week for the national campaign starting February 9.

“Rep. Balindong has other angles, but no question that it (BBL) won’t become a law even if we pass our version, the Senate has not been acting on it,” said Belmonte.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the House committee on national defense, echoed Belmonte’s position.
“BBL is effectively dead. It may pass the House of Representatives but will it pass the Senate within three days? Will it be signed by President Aquino into law?” Biazon, a former chief of staff of the AFP, asked.

Balindong “closed the book of hope” for the approval of BBL with only three session days left.

“With a heavy heart and disturbing sense of foreboding, I close the book of hope for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. 51 public hearings, 200 hours of committee level debates and 8 months of consultations are all put to waste – thrown into the abyss of uncertainty and darkness. This is the lowest and saddest day of my legislative work,” said Balindong. “We take away the hopes of millions of people in the Bangsamoro. By sheer tyranny of the majority, we have foreclosed all possible peaceful, legal, and constitutional avenues for peace.”

Some lawmakers, many of whom are supporters of “Tuwid na Daan,” have opposed the bill on the ground that it is unconstitutional and unfairly lopsided in favor of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its main proponent on the Bangsamoro side.

“No matter how we debate on the justness of the Bangsamoro cause no matter how we stand to legal reasoning, no matter how we shout for our constitutionally guaranteed right to genuine political autonomy, the reality is that there are only 10 Moro legislators against the more than 280 members of this House. We are only 10 lone voices in the wilderness of bias, prejudice, and hatred,” Balindong added.

House Bill (HB) No. 5811 which is in substitution for HB No. 4994 or An Act Providing Basic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is still in the period of interpellations in the House of Representatives.

President Aquino was reported to have appealed to the lawmakers to attend the remaining days of the session in order to pass the BBL but the lawmakers refused.

The measure seeks the abolition of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro region.
Gerry Baldo, Mario J. Mallari, Ted Tuvera


MANILA STANDARD

JPE: PNoy hiding behind his men posted January 28, 2016 at 12:01 am by Macon Ramos-Araneta

SENATOR Juan Ponce Ernile on Wednesday attacked President Benigno Aquino III for hiding behind others to shield himself from responsibility for the deaths of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano last year, but the Palace and its allies said he failed to produce new evidence as he promised.

In Wednesday’s resumption of the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano massacre, Enrile spelled out Aquino’s eight sins in the ill-fated Operation Exodus in which the Special Action Force commandos were killed by Muslim rebels.

The hearing continues. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile fields questions during the continuation of the hearing on the Mamasapano debacle at the Senate on Wednesday. Lino Santos
Although the record showed that the President “actively and directly” participated in the planning and preparation for the operation, he evaded any responsibility and accountability and used his friend, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to shield him from blame.

By questioning those involved in the operation before the Senate committee on public order, Enrile concluded that the President had authorized and “compartmented” the operation, keeping knowledge of it only to himself and Purisima; and that he had full knowledge of what was going on during its execution.

Enrile said he also “wantonly” disregarded the command systems of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines by dealing with Purisima, who at the time was not an active part of the command system because he was suspended on corruption charges.

Finally, he said, President Aquino failed to issue any order or take any effective action as President of the republic “to prevent the barbaric slaying and slaughter of the PNP-SAF troopers.”

As proof of the President’s direct hand in Oplan Exodus, Enrile cited a briefing that Purisima and then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas gave Aquino in Bahay Pangarap on Jan. 9, 2015.

At one point in the hearing, Enrile read back text messages that the President had sent to Purisima, noting that he was more interested in the body of the terrorist Marwan and the fate of the other targets of the operation than in the safety of the police commandos. In fact, he said, none of the text messages Aquino sent asked about the men, Enrile said.

Enrile also expressed doubts over Purisima’s claim that the briefing was held merely to keep the President informed, and noted that it was Aquino who had suggested the SAF devote more commandos to the operation.

“If he was not involved, he had no role except to just listen and say nothing,” Enrile told Purisima as the former police chief was being questioned by Senator Nancy Binay.

When Purisima insisted that they were just keeping the President informed about an operation with high-value targets, Enrile blurted out: “Someone is lying here in front of us in the Senate! This is an insult to the institution.”

As the seven-hour session was drawing to a close, Enrile threw a question at the police and military generals in the Session Hall.

“Woud you act if there is no order and your President is the one commanding? My question to all of you is if a project was compartmented by the President, will you interfere if he has no order?” the 91-year-old senator asked.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, a close ally of the President, stood up and insisted that Aquino was never involved in planning Oplan Exodus.

“There is nothing in the testimony that the President [got involved] in the manner that is being presented,” Drilon said in the President’s defense.

He emphasized that from the very start, Napeñas had said that it was his plan and he executed it.

Asked if he thought the Senate committee on public order might change its report, Enrile said no, and that he merely focused the discussion on the President’s responsibility and accountability.

He said the “new matters” he wanted to bring up were the text messages between the President and Purisima.

Enrile rejected the President’s claim that he was misinformed.

“They have huge intelligence funds. Why did they not foresee that this could happen to their men in the field?”

Enrile said he was satisfied with the hearing because it focused attention on the President’s responsibility, something that was not done in the previous hearings.

Now it was up to the law enforcement officials to do their job, he added.

READ MORE...

Committee chairman Senator Grace Poe said most of the points in the hearing were already included in her committee report and can be found in the transcripts of previous hearings and executive sessions.

She said she stood by her report, which found the President ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano massacre, and said those findings were bolstered by the additional testimony Wednesday.

She said the hearing focused on a chronological and clinical timeline of the incident and offered some new information on the US assistance that was given to the police.

Earlier, Enrile asked former police officials why the US military or the Central Intelligence Agency were involved in a purely police matter.

Napeñas said this was because the mission was to get Marwan, who was also wanted for the Bali bombings in which Americans were killed.

But Enrile said the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement does not cover the enforcement of criminal laws in the Philippines.

“This is something that the government must explain,” he said.

Administration Senator Teofisto Guingona III said Enrile’s “bombshell” was a dud, since no new matters or evidence were presented.

Guingona also considered a “waste of time” the seven-hour hearing where 24 resource persons were summoned.

Poe had already conducted five public hearings, spanning 23 hours and 39 minutes. The transcripts of these hearings alone total 1,098 pages. There were also five executive sessions, spending 15 hours and nine minutes, grilling witnesses behind closed doors.

During the previous hearings, a total of 37 persons testified.

Echoing the administration line, Guingona said the President’s actions were based only on the information given him by Purisima.

Asked why the President allowed the suspended police chief run the operation, Guingona said this was beside the point.

“The point here was that the President was provided the wrong information from morning until afternoon,” he said.

During the hearing, Guingona said there was no concern or alarm on the part of the President as he was told that only one trooper was wounded and that Marwan was already dead. The President was also informed that the government had 160 troopers against the 15-20 armed elements.

“The reality that happened on the ground was different from what the President knew,” Guingona told Poe’s committee.

“There was no reason for the President to be alarmed because we had 160 troopers as against the 15-20 armed elements. This is on top of the tanks and cannon,” said Guingona.

Also like Drilon, Guingona blamed Napeñas for misleading and confusing the President with wrong information.

Napeñas objected: “I did not mislead the President.”

During the hearing, the military official who flew the plane carrying the President to Zambonga City to monitor the operation testified he was directed by Aquino to alert all assets on the ground to support SAF troops.

Another presidential ally, Senator Antonio Trillanes said the hearing merely emphasized the liability of Napeñas

Purisima testified that hetold Napenas to inform the PNP hierarchy about the operation and seek coordination from the AFP, but he did not do so.

“Napenas also did not act to save the troopers who engaged the Muslim rebels in the firefight,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes also said there was nothing wrong in the President turning to the suspended police chief.

“He was suspended only from the PNP but the President did not suspend his friendship with Purisima,” he said.

At the hearing, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Maj. Gen. Angelito de Leon showed photos of Napenas and Deputy Director Noli Taliño “smiling and looking at ease” at the height of the gunfight between the SAF commandos and Muslim rebels.

The SAF leaders were “detached from the reality of the SAF operation and unaware of the magnitude of SAF casualties,” he said. “The SAF commanders lacked a grasp of the gravity of the situation and had a walk-in-the park mindset.”

A slide in the AFP presentation showed the same photo with the text: “Blamed everyone but himself” – referring to Napeñas.

The camp of Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II also dismissed Enrile’s effort to incriminate the President.

“Our question now is: where are the supposed bombshells that he’s repeatedly saying to the media these past few days,” Roxas’ spokesperson Rep. Barry Gutierrez said in a statement yesterday.

“There’s no new evidence that transpired even in the previous hearings, or in the previous reports. Even [Enrile’s] line of questioning is [forced],” he added.

The Palace defended the President against Enrile’s allegations.

“President Aquino had always acted responsibly and faced squarely all matters pertaining to the Mamasapano incident,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., in a statement.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, meanwhile, urged the Senate committee that reopened the probe on the Mamasapano massacre in January last year “to serve justice without compromising national security interests.”

Romualdez said that one year after the tragic incident, the Senate probe should “once and for all lead to justice for the families of the victims and closure on a tragedy that has deeply divided the nation.”

The lawmaker said all new evidence, such as an alleged audio tape purporting to indicate a cover-up of the massacre to save the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, should be allowed to be presented “in the interest of justice”. With John Paolo Bencito and Sandy Araneta

-------------------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Noy blames cops; Aquino also ‘impatient’ for justice to be done posted January 26, 2016 at 12:01 am by Sandy Araneta, Florante S. Solmerin and Rey E. Requejo


PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Monday praised the heroism of the 44 Special Action Force commandos killed by Muslim rebels a year ago in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, but blamed other police officials for not doing their jobs.

Aquino, who approved the covert mission to neutralize two high-profile terrorists, ignored allegations that he did nothing to save the commandos while they were being slaughtered, in his speech to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 25 Mamasapno massacre.

The killing recalled. President Benigno Aquino III delivers a speech during the first anniversary of the mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25 last year that resulted in the killing of 44 police commandos in a clash with Muslim rebels. Jansen Romero
Instead, he blamed others in the Philippine National Police for the debacle.

“We appeal to Congress: review the PNP Law; specify the provisions that hinder the immediate imposition of penalties against leaders who fail in their responsibilities. We do not want a repeat of this tragedy just because they do not want to follow the policies. It is not right to continue a system where one would carry a bigger responsibility just because others fail to do so,” Aquino said.

Aquino also lashed out at opportunists that he said were exploiting the deaths of SAF elite troopers.

“There are those who would try to take advantage of the controversy in your [PNP] ranks in order to create disunity; they might use the tragedy for their own agenda,” Aquino said.

Aquino also vowed to bring justice to the slain commandos.

“Just like yourselves, I have been impatient [about] the slow system of justice.... As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied,” Aquino said in award ceremonies for the SAF 44 in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

“You can expect, together with the support given to the families of the SAF 44, we will thoroughly do our best efforts to obtain justice,” he said.

At the ceremonies, the Medal of Valor—the highest distinction given to uniformed personnel of the PNP—was given to the families of Police Chief Inspector Gednat Garambas Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cumanoy Cempron, two of the SAF 44.

Tabdi was the Team Leader of the 84th Special Action Company of SAF. Tabdi led his team to accomplish its mission despite his wounds.

Cempron was the lead gunner of the 55th Special Action Company. When his fellow commandos were being killed, he sacrificed himself as a human shield so that PO2 Christopher Lalan could move to safety.

READ MORE...

Also awarded the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal were 47 other SAF troopers, including the five survivors of the Mamasapano encounter. Twenty-five other survivors received special promotions.

In a statement, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., said Aquino met with families of the SAF troopers from 11 a.m. into the afternoon.

Coloma said they discussed the implementation of various forms of assistance extended by the government such as housing, education, employment and livelihood assistance.

“The President has instructed concerned government officials to exert all efforts to extend the needed assistance to the families,” Coloma said.

Coloma said this was the third time that the President has met with the families.

He added that some 85 percent of the benefits have already been given to the SAF families.

Codenamed “Oplan Exodus”, the covert operation last year dispatched 300 SAF troopers to Mamasapano to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan and two other terrorists.

The operation was led by then SAF commander retired police director Getulio Napeñas and cloaked in secrecy.

The SAF troopers were able to kill Marwan but were ambushed while withdrawing. Forty-four of them died when no help came from Armed Forces soldiers nearby.

A police general who was privy to the activities of the board of inquiry formed to investigate the incident said Aquino ordered Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, to stand down for fear that their involvement would endanger the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Senate is scheduled to reopen its investigation into the Mamasapano debacle on Wednesday, Jan. 27, after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile claimed that he has evidence that will expose the President’s liability.

Earlier, retired PNP chief superintendent Diosdado Valeroso said he had in his possession a digital audio recording of a conversation between a high-ranking government official and a legislator that occurred a day or two after the clash, showing that there was an attempt to cover up what happened so that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the lynchpin in the government’s peace pact with the MILF, would be passed in Congress.

Reacting to this allegation, Coloma said Valeroso should present his evidence during the Senate hearing.

The Justice Department has closed its preliminary investigation into criminal charges against 90 people charged for the bloody Mamasapano encounter, but no cases have been filed against them.

Newly appointed acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas said all the talk about new evidence was “speculative” at this point.

“Let us wait. I don’t know what additional evidence that is. Let us just wait,” Caparas told reporters, when asked about the new evidence that Enrile will present during the reopening of the Mamasapano probe in the Senate.

Enrile vowed to show proof that President Aquino “actively and directly involved himself in the planning and preparation of Oplan Exodus.”

Caparas also denied allegations that the Justice Department is delaying its resolution of the Mamasapano case, which has been submitted for resolution by a panel of prosecutors following preliminary investigation.

Although it has been a year since the death of the SAF 44, Caparas said they are not sitting on the Mamasapano case, and assured the public that a resolution will be out soon.

“You are talking about many witnesses, you are talking about several defendants, and when you put that all together, ...an investigation like that can take a very long time,” Caparas said.

A total of 90 respondents belonging to the MILF, its rival Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and local private armed groups have been charged before the DoJ for the complex crime of direct assault with murder for the death of the 35 of the 44 SAF members belonging to the 55th company.

But the fact-finding team failed to gather evidence that would point to those responsible for the killing of the other nine members of the 84th company.

State prosecutor Alexander Suarez, one of the members of the five-man preliminary investigation panel, earlier said only four out of the 90 respondents responded to the subpoenas they issued.


MANILA TIMES

SAF 44 would still be alive if PNoy did not mess up – Marcos January 28, 2016 10:00 pm
by JOEL M. SY EGCO, SENIOR REPORTER AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA, REPORTER

HAD President Benigno Aquino 3rd observed standard operating procedure (SOP) in launching police operations like Oplan Exodus, the 44 police commandos slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, would still be alive today, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday.

“It was very clear that because the President disregarded the procedures in the planning and execution of the operation and chain of command, the massacre happened,” Marcos noted in an interview after his consultation with local officials of Marikina City (Metro Manila).

He said although no bombshell was dropped during the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano bloodbath, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile was able to show more clearly the role played by Aquino in the operation and how he handled it.

Marcos added that the main focus of reopening the Senate investigation was to find out what really happened and Enrile was able to accomplish it.

“Clearly, there was a lack of coordination brought by the decision of the President to keep the operation secret to other officials of government even to the officer-in-charge of the PNP [Philippine National Police],” he pointed out.

Cabinet and security officials present during the hearing claimed that Aquino was not aware of the real situation of the SAF troops deployed in Maguindanao to capture suspected terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, because no clear information reached him that day.

But Marcos maintained that it was unlikely for Aquino not to get information regarding the status of the operation and the condition of the troops.

“There were text messages and exchanges of information among Cabinet and security officials as early as 5 a.m. that day, and they were even discussing it,” he said.
Marcos also noted that if the President did not know what was happening on January 25, 2015, it would only mean that he was not monitoring the operation that he put in place without the knowledge of the police and the military.

READ MORE...

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero still sees finger-pointing among officials one year after the bloodbath.

He said the hearing on Wednesday highlighted the lack of intelligence, poor planning and coordination and failure of communications between and among government agencies.

Vindicated?

Malacañang maintained that Aquino was vindicated in the last Senate hearing because it was established that former Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napenas was solely responsible for mishandling Oplan Exodus.

“Senator Enrile’s allegations were effectively responded to and belied in [Wednesday’s] hearing.

It was established that Director Napenas lacked situational awareness involving his troops in Mamasapano and the serious lack of coordination between him and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] led to the deaths of the SAF 44,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a news briefing.

According to the official, even Enrile’s eight-point summary that purportedly indicated the President’s culpability fizzled out.
“He wanted to show that the President was responsible for the high number of casualties but in government’s view, it was brought about by the actuations and judgment of former SAF director Napenas in his capacity as the commander of the operations of Oplan Exodus,” Coloma explained.

The Palace official also listed the former SAF commander’s follies.

“First, he did not coordinate, second, he did not abort the operations when the conditions were clear that it should have been aborted and he failed to sufficiently factored in the safety of his troops because of his lack of situational awareness. He was not prepared to lead his men. He did not have a mindset of a commander seriously concerned with the welfare of his troops,” Coloma said.


MANILA BULLETIN

End blame game: Animosity between PNP, AFP resurfaces at reopening of Mamasapano hearing by Hannah Torregoza January 29, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share2

Senator Escudero yesterday sought an end to the blame game between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the death of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos last year.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he noted that even during the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the bloody Mamasapano operation last Wednesday, police and military officials still pointed fingers at each other on who was to blame for the botched operation.

“Since we started the hearing and until now, our officials are still pointing fingers at each other. Command responsibility is important and I believe in it. But it seems everyone is making command but no one is accepting any responsibility,” said Escudero, who is running for vice president in the coming May national elections.

He said that the joint hearing, led by Senate Committee on Public Order chair Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, again highlighted the lack of intelligence, poor planning and coordination, and failure of communications between and among key law enforcement agencies from the beginning up to the extraction of the last SAF trooper trapped at the battle scene in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

During the hearing last Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile blamed President Aquino for compartmentalizing the operation, limiting the details and planning of Oplan Exodus to a few number of people, including himself and then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and SAF Director General Getulio Napeñas.

But Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it was actually Napeñas who acted alone. He said the former SAF chief disobeyed President Aquino’s order to coordinate with the military about the anti-terror mission. He added that such order from the President’s should not be considered an interference but a mere guidance to ensure the success of the operation.

Enrile also accused the President of deliberately keeping other Cabinet officials, the AFP and PNP leadership out of the loop. While the operation successfully neutralized Malaysian terrorist Zulkilfi bin Hir or “Marwan” who is one of the targets of the operation it resulted in dire consequences.

READ MORE...

At least 44 members of the PNP elite force died in a firefight against mixed troops of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other private armed groups while trying to make their way out following the killing of Marwan.

Enrile also claimed that President Aquino failed to take any effective action to prevent the slaughter of the 44 police commandos. The senator added the President tried to hide from Purisima to escape accountability and responsibility for the bungled anti-terror raid.

Coloma, however, insisted that the President did everything he could to save the policemen contrary to the allegations hurled by Enrile.

Malacañang said Enrile’s attempt to pin the blame on President Aquino for the Mamasapano debacle was a dud.

The reopening of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident only proved anew the liability of Napeñas for the lapses of the police operation, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“The allegations made by Senator Enrile have been effectively addressed and proven wrong in the Senate hearing last Wednesday,” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing.

“The hearing showed Director Napeñas’ lack of awareness about the real situation of his troops in Mamasapano and the serious lack of coordination between him and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that put the lives of the SAF 44 at risk,” he added.

Likewise, Coloma also denied speculations that Aquino supposedly issued a “stand down” order to the military at the height of the deadly encounter between the SAF troopers and Muslim rebels in order to protect the fragile peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Testifying at the hearing, AFP officials said the operation was doomed from the start since there is lack of a solid contingency plan, strategic planning, full scale logistics, among others.

Escudero said it would have been more acceptable if at least one of these security officials admitted command responsibility for what had happened in Mamasapano.

CORRECT INSTITUTIONAL DEFECTS

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said he hopes fellow lawmakers would work to address the institutional damage on the PNP and the AFP by crafting new laws and amending existing ones, instead of looking for personalities to blame.

“There were new issues that cropped up during the hearing, but what is important here is that, in aid of legislation, we correct these institutional defects,” Honasan said.

“We need a positive approach here, let’s help and let’s not use this for any other motive,” added the senator.

“Both of them have a mission, that is to serve a warrant, to ensure peace and order and fight those who are against peace,” he pointed out.

The reopening of the hearing, Honasan said, not only shed light on new details of the case, but also saw the need to put an end to compartmentalization.

“We all saw the need to put an end or prevent this compartmentalization. We uncovered the extent of the lack of coordination. That both camps were negligent,” he said.

A former military officer and leader of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), Honasan agreed there should have been collective responsibility and accountability, but the need to address the institutional damage is paramount.

“Let’s stop looking for people to blame, who should be punished, and who should be absolved. It’s the courts that would determine that. It will not serve public interest if the blame game continues,” said Honasan.

But everything boils down to miscommunication, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said, as he pointed out President Aquino was misinformed of the gravity of the situation on that fateful day.

“I think the President thought the SAF has a huge force because on his third text (message) to Gen. Purisima, he was asking if they really sent 160 troops,” Angara pointed out in an interview over Radio DZMM.

“It wasn’t clear to him how many were the casualties and the gravity of the situation,” he pointed out.

Poe said there is no need to draft a new committee report as there is no new evidence on the deadly clash that would change the findings of the committee report they released last year.

The Senate reopened the hearing upon the request of Enrile, who cited new evidence that would pin down Aquino.

With the lessons arising from the incident, Coloma said the military and the police have committed to strengthen mechanisms of coordination to prevent a repeat of the bungled Mamasapano operation.

He also expressed hope that Congress would also review the PNP Law and determine possible sanctions on police officials committing neglect of duty.

On the role of the United States in the Mamasapano operation, Coloma defended that such alliance with the foreign power was part of the global campaign against terrorism.

He assured that the government follows rules and regulations concerning defense pacts with the United States in terms of the counter terrorism drive.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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