By Amita O. Legaspi | GMA News Online
Fearing backlash for their testimonies, several survivors of the bloody January 25 Mamasapano clash have asked for an executive session when the Senate begins its investigation on the bloodshed on Monday.
In a manifestation during the session Wednesday, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the survivors are willing to speak but want to do it behind closed doors.
He said he had written a letter to Sen. Grace Poe, who will spearhead the Senate investigation, for such request.
“Many of the survivors are in touch with me directly and asking that they be given a chance to speak but, I hope I’m not jumping the gun here, it is also their request that much of their testimony be made in executive session dahil nag-aalangan sila,” Marcos said without mentioning names.
“We must do whatever it is that we can, be it an executive session, be it a private meeting, be it an open public hearing. Whatever it is that we need to do para makausap natin sila at makapagsalita sila nang hindi sila natatakot na babalikan sila sa kanilang magiging testimonya. I think that we are in concurrence when it comes to this issue,” he added.
Forty-four Special Action Force commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, and several civilians were killed in the encounter that cast a shadow on the peace talks between the government and the MILF.
The policemen were supposed to serve warrants of arrest to suspected Bali bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman, whose presence in the area was confirmed.
Decision on Monday
Poe, however, was not immediately sold to the idea of a closed-door session, saying they will make the decision on the request on Monday.
“With regards to having certain topics discussed in executive session, we will determine that on the day itself with the consensus of the other members of the committee that will hear it,” she said.
“What we need to be careful is that we are protecting the country and our national interest and not just to protect certain individuals. So we would be very careful in using executive session as a means to determine the truth,” Poe added.
She said among those invited to hearing were survivors PO2 Christopher Lalan and Supt. Raymond Train, who were both on the ground when the clash happened.
Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said it is the responsibility of the Senate to balance the act of transparency and getting the truth and protecting the country's security.
“For example, we may ask what is the response time needed to coordinate, but that answer may not be given in public because the enemies of State would know the answer and would be able to prepare,” he said.
He added that military and police reports on the incident may even be labeled as confidential “and it will be the responsibility of the individual senator to keep that confidentiality or to make sure that this doesn’t leak even to their staff.”
“To keep the senators in the dark and the danger of perceiving a cover-up is as valid as the national security concern,” Cayetano pointed out.