The Daily Tribune - Marcos eyes De Lima for massacre probe

News & Interviews
7 January 2016

By Angie Rosales | The Daily Tribune

the-daily-tribune.jpgThe hot seat at the reopening of the Senate probe on Mamasapano clash that resulted in the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos will be reserved for former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who is now seeking a Senate seat due to her inaction in prosecuting Muslim rebels who were tagged as culprits in the massacre.

Former Special Action Force (SAF) chief and now UNA senatorial candidate Getulio Napeñas, who was considered among the Palace scapegoats in the botched Operation Plan (Oplan) Exodus that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, said the reopening of the Mamasapano probe should, among many things, uncover President Aquino’s accountability. It was Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile who had requested at the plenary to reopen the Mamasapano incident investigation, claiming he has more questions to ask particularly on what the government did for the encounter to last for 11 hours.

The Palace, meanwhile, showed reluctance in the reopening of the probe as President Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said government officials have nothing more to disclose regarding the incident.

“The decision to reopen it is clearly a legislative decision...but the people involved have all testified before the Senate inquiry. I am not sure what more we can contribute. It has been...the Cabinet members, the PNP personnel, the AFP personnel have all cooperated. They have given their testimonies,” Lacierda said.

De Lima, however, faces tough grilling in the Senate over her apparent failure to make good her promise of bringing before the bar of justice those behind the gruesome killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members when the investigation on the Mamasapano incident is reopened in the upper chamber.

On Aquino’s accountability, Lacierda said in the various past statements of Aquino, he has already said that he took responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.

“We must remember that the President has also addressed the concerns of not only the immediate families of the SAF 44, but also the extended families who sought assistance from the President and we have addressed and we continue to address those concerns,” he added.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said he will insist on the appearance of De Lima in the reopening of the probe.

“We have not seen justice applied to the victims and their family,” Marcos said.

De Lima had issued pronouncements in the past, during Senate hearings, that the justice department, through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), said they were looking at the possibility of filing criminal charges to at least 90 individuals.

“So far there is no action. She said that up to 90 will be prosecuted on murder charges. The Mamasapano incident happened January 25 last year, it is already January, 2016 and there are no results yet,” Marcos said.

More than the benefits due to the families of the surviving and fallen SAF members which have yet to be fully provided by the government, the senator said the administration should ensure that justice is served.

The senator said he has been in touch with some of the relatives of the fallen SAF members and they have been pleading for support from the government, not in the form of financial aid or other benefits but in holding accountable those responsible in the bloody death of the victims.

“They are asking for justice. I hope we can give that to them,” he said.

PNP welcomes new probe

The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday said it will not be distracted by the reinvestigation of the Mamasapano debacle by the Senate, as it expressed optimism that the move was meant to seek justice for the fallen 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF)

At a press briefing, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, PNP spokesman, said that the PNP high command respects the wisdom of the Senate in its move to reopen its probe of the Jan. 25, 2015 clashes in Mamasapano, Maguindanao between the SAF and combined elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The Senate is set to reinvestigate the Mamasapano debacle on Jan. 25 –exactly one year after the incident that resulted in the killing of 67 persons –44 of whom were SAF operatives.

“As a professional organization we will not be distracted by this kind of investigation because we know they are just doing their job. The aim here is justice for our people, for the SAF 44,” said Mayor.

“We are optimistic that this kind of probe will lead to more enlightenment and as I’ve said the intention of the PNP is to seek justice for our policemen,” he added.

On Monday, the Senate ruled that there are no more obstacles to the return of Committee Report 120, submitted by Sen. Grace Poe who led the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano incident last year, thus boosting the manifestation of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile to revisit the case.

Enrile reiterated his call for a full debate and reinvestigation on the botched Operation Plan (Oplan) ‘”Exodus” against international terrorists, led by Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who was killed during the operation.
Two other targets –Malaysian Amin Baco alias Jihad and Filipino bomb expert Basit Usman, escaped.

Enrile’s move to press another round of investigation on the incident, which he first raised sometime October last year, was reportedly prompted by new evidence regarding the debacle.

The action taken by Enrile is seen to affect the findings of the committee on public order chaired by Poe, which merely tagged President Aquino as ultimately responsible for the bloody incident.

The panel report is yet to be acted upon on the floor despite the submission of Poe last June where she initially said there will no longer be any plenary debate on the Mamasapano report as any clarification on the matter can be taken up during the deliberations of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Many believed that BBL became the “collateral damage” of the Mamasapano incident, which was described by some as a “massacre” of the SAF 44.
Former PNP chief retired Director General Leonardo Espina noted that some of the SAF officers killed in action only sustained minor gunshots but were “finished off” by the Muslim fighters.

Deputy Director General Benjamin Magalong, director of the PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) who headed the Board of Inquiry (BOI) that investigated the Mamasapano incident, vowed full cooperation to the Senate reinvestigation.

“We are ready if we are called (during the reinvestigation),” said Magalong.
Magalong stressed that they are standing by the BOI report which found President Aquino to have “violated” the chain of command by allowing then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to orchestrate Oplan “Exodus” with former SAF Director Getulio Napenas.

“I stand by all the content…we will be very truthful about it,” said Magalong.
Espina and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas were kept out of the loop in staging “Exodus.”

Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also vowed full cooperation to the reinvestigation.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said that the AFP leadership is ready to send personnel or submit affidavits to the probed body if so ordered.