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Noy should be held accountable for SAF 44 – House bloc

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said it was disappointing that President Aquino omitted in his last State of the Nation Address the heroism of the 44 members of the police Special Action Force, which meant that justice remains elusive for the victims and their families. STAR file photo/Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino should be held accountable for the incident that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos and more than a dozen civilians and rebels in Maguindanao.

This was the conclusion of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives as it released yesterday the summary of its findings on the Jan. 25 carnage in Mamasapano.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the bloc, said the report was based on documents and testimonies from resource persons in the Senate and the House.

This developed as Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate probe on the incident could be reopened only if voted upon in the plenary.

“It is outside the jurisdiction of the committee on public order (because) the report has been submitted. It is in the calendar for ordinary business of the Senate as a whole. To bring it back to the committee will require the vote of the plenary,” Drilon explained yesterday.

Sen. Grace Poe, who chaired the committee that investigated the killings, stands by her report and is ready to defend it in plenary. Among the committee findings was that President Aquino was ultimately liable for what took place on Jan. 25.

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Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano has pushed for the reopening of the Mamasapano clash probe, which he said must be completed and taken up alongside the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Cayetano believes many details about the clash have not come out and that the findings of the ombudsman regarding the matter were not consistent with those of the Senate.

In coming up with a bloc report, Romualdez said it was disappointing that Aquino omitted in his last State of the Nation Address the heroism of the 44 members of the police Special Action Force (SAF), which meant that justice remains elusive for the victims and their families.

“President Aquino, instead of prosecuting the criminals to the fullest extent of the law as is his duty, has all but abandoned the SAF 44, his own men. All in the name of peace, so we are made to believe. But, in truth, another experiment in autonomy using unrealistic and unworkable designs littered with constitutional infirmities,” Romualdez said, referring to the proposed BBL.

He said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose leaders admitted to firing at the policemen, “still refuse to surrender their murderous members.”

Romualdez said the findings of both the Senate committee on public order and safety, chaired by Poe, and the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry, headed by police Director Benjamin Magalong, reported that Aquino was and is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the mission.

The bloc’s report, prefaced with the Latin legal phrase “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall,” was based on the testimonies and documents submitted by resource persons from the PNP-BOI, National Bureau of Investigation and the MILF and the supporting documents and inputs from local and foreign sources.

It said Aquino approved and directed the mission using inputs from “a limited circle of subordinates,” principally by then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, SAF Director Getulio Napeñas and the acting PNP intelligence chief.

The Mamasapano operation was conducted on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, consequently violating a number of protocols, including the role of Purisima and the established PNP chain of command.

It pointed out that Aquino was briefed regularly by Purisima and Napeñas on the progress of the mission, from the time the SAF commandos took off early on Jan. 25 to the time he actually ordered Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero to provide assistance to the besieged commandos, almost 12 hours after the firefight broke out or at around 4 p.m.

The report noted that on the day of the Mamasapano operation, Aquino was in Zamboanga City with the Cabinet security cluster, then Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang and senior AFP and PNP commanders from 10 a.m. until he left for Manila in the evening.

“He was in a position to assume command in the early stages of the firefight and prevent heavy loss of lives. That he did not order a more determined effort to rescue the SAF troopers, or talk directly to MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim to stop the carnage instead of  ‘bureaucratizing’ a ceasefire and rescue operations, has fuelled suspicions that he actually issued a ‘stand down’ order as reported in media,” the summary stated.– With Marvin Sy

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