By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., on Friday told journalists that two survivors of the Mamasapano incident had given the Senate accounts of amazing heroism showed by the #Fallen44 SAF commandos up to their last breath in the Battle of Masasapano on January 25, 2015.
"Incomparable bravery!," Marcos stressed.
However, Marcos declined to bare sensitive details of the Mamasapano incident as narrated by the two survivors, since the statements were made during an executive session conducted by the Senate committee on public order.
"I have not only to honor the agreement between senators but more importantly to ensure the safety of the survivors and their families," Marcos said in a radio interview, a transcript of which was furnished the media.
Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the panel, said earlier there will be another executive session on Monday to obtain more details on the gruesome deaths of 44 men and officers of Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano against an overwhelming force of combined elements from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
"But this is what I can say — from what was told to us, it is almost incomprehensible how brave and gallant our policemen were. What they endured, what they have done, their bravery — we, senators are looking at each other — we cannot believe we ourselves can do what they did," Marcos said.
Even as this developed, Marcos said it's time President Aquino comes clean on his actual role in Operation Exodus, which got part of its mission of neutralizing international terrorist Marwan, but led to the death of 44 SAF men - debacle that is being blamed on lack of coordination, which in turn is believed by some to have arisen from Mr. Aquino's entrusting supervision of the mission to then suspended PNP chief and his close buddy, Gen. Alan Purisima.
Marcos noted that in the latest Senate hearings, none of the officials present from Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Roxas, Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin, to AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Pio Catapang wanted to admit that they informed President Aquino about the Mamasapano incident.
"All of them were just exchanging glances, nobody could provide us a direct answer," Marcos said, "except for suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, who asked first for executive clearance."
The senator said nobody wanted to admit telling the President about the Mamasapano incident because they would have had to answer, as well, the obvious follow-up question about what the President did or said after learning of the debacle in Mamasapano.
"We have to find out what were the instructions of the President, because there were reports that the instruction was for the AFP to exert best efforts only (in helping the SAF men). That's a pity if it was only best efforts," Marcos said.
It was also disturbing, Marcos said, that, based on the testimony of Gen. Catapang, the AFP refused to send in air assets over fears that the move might be "misinterpreted" by the MILF as an attack in breach of the standing cease-fire, and thus imperil the peace agreement with Moro rebels..
"They (AFP) didn't do it because they were worried about the possible reaction of the MILF, which at that time had their fighters already engaged out there, firing at and killing the hapless SAF troops. They put priority on the peace process over the lives of our SAF men. I simply cannot understand this policy, it's disturbing to say the least," Marcos said.
And, based on the testimonies in the hearing Thursday, Marcos said it was clear President Aquino knew that both Acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina and DILG Secretary Roxas would be kept in the dark as to Operation Exodus.
At the same time, Marcos refuted the MILF's claim that the so-called mis-encounter stemmed from SAF's failure to coordinate with them for the operation to apprehend the Malaysian terrorist Marwan.
"From the reports, the MILF side was informed around noon that day that they are facing government troops and they should effect a ceasefire. But the firing stopped only at 4:00 pm. By that time, most of those who died in the encounter were already dead. So I don't think it's true that the SAF did not coordinate," he said.