Manila Bulletin - Mamasapano ‘blame game’ confuses senators

10 March 2015

By Hannah L. Torregoza & Mario B. Casayuran| Manila Bulletin


President Aquino should have owned up to his mistakes instead of blaming other personalities in the botched operation that led to the death of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, some senators said yesterday.

Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said the President should have admitted his fault to bring a swift closure to the relatives and the nation still wanting answers over the killing of the 44 SAF troopers last Jan. 25.

“President Aquino should mull over the actions of former leaders who considered themselves answerable for the fatal mistakes committed under their administration,” Ejercito said in a statement.

“Admitting fault would not make President Aquino’s leadership weak. The fact is, the Filipino people are just waiting for him to do it,” the senator added.

He also believes that because of the President’s statements during the prayer gathering on Monday night, Aquino muddled the PNP-Board of Inquiry’s investigation into the lapses in the Operation Exodus.

Ejercito said the PNP-BOI is now in an awkward position because the President preempted the report supposed to be released by the PNP fact-finding committee.

“It put the BOI in an awkward position as it just announced it was asking for an extension yesterday morning, then PNoy preempted it by narrating his account of the Mamasapano incident, extricating himself and putting the blame on (former PNP-SAF director Getulio) Napeñas,” he pointed out.

On Monday night, Aquino solely pinned down Napeñas whom he said directed the whole operation. But he did not explain nor gave details about then suspended PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima’s role in the Mamasapano incident.

But Sen. Francis Escudero said senators already know Napeñas’ liability in the operation. However, the matter of determining whether President Aquino or Purisima or the other individuals are involved is up to the different fact-finding committees, he said.

“Surely, Napeñas had lapses and had several opportunities to either abort the mission or save lives as the day went on,” Escudero said in a text message.

“However, the action or inaction or lapses, as the case may be, of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), GRP/ceasefire committee, PNP, Purisima, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and PNoy should be the proper subject matter of any fact-finding panel, whether by the Senate or the BOI,” he said.

But Escudero said, he believes the President was “simply narrating his account” of the Mamasapano incident and did not intend to simply pin Napeñas, “as that is not his function but, rather, that of the investigative and or fact-finding bodies.”

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong’’ R. Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, said the assertion of President Aquino that Napeñas lied to him “is just confusing the issue, instead of enlightening it.”

Marcos said the death of the “Fallen 44” was the result of the President creating his own chain of command which included then suspended PNP chief Purisma, and Napenas, but excluded PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina.

“Now, we have to look into it (President Aquino’s assertion that Napeñas lied to him)… what the President told the House of Representatives, and the families (of the 44 SAF policemen) that Purisima lied to him and now Napenas lied to him,” Marcos said.

Asked to comment on an observation by a member of the House of Representatives that President Aquino is a “congenital liar,” Marcos simply replied: “I reserve judgment on that statement.”

Although he heads the committee tasked to fine-tune the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is supposed to bring peace to troubled Mindanao, Marcos said it is Sen. Grace Poe who has the next move on the President’s new assertion since she heads the Senate Public Order Committee that has already conducted public hearings and closed door sessions on the Mamasapano tragedy.

Poe said she believes the PNP-BOI may consider the President’s “extemporaneous” statement in Malacañang part of their report since they did not get the chance to interview him.

Regardless of the PNP-BOI’s failure to meet its deadline, Poe said the Senate will release its own findings by March 16.