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SAF 44 case to beresolved in 4 weeks

The DOJ on Dec. 17 concluded after three hearings its preliminary investigation into the killing of 35 members of the police Special Action Force (SAF) by guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and some private armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year. No charges have been filed against anyone for the killing of the nine other SAF members as no witnesses have come forward to identify suspected killers. AP file photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – In three to four weeks, the Department of Justice would be able to come up with a resolution on the Mamasapano tragedy, acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas said yesterday.

“Please expect us to resolve that – give us three to four weeks to be able to do that,” Caparas told reporters.

He said state prosecutors working on the case would “go over everything that has been gathered.”

The DOJ on Dec. 17 concluded after three hearings its preliminary investigation into the killing of 35 members of the police Special Action Force (SAF) by guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and some private armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year.

No charges have been filed against anyone for the killing of the nine other SAF members as no witnesses have come forward to identify suspected killers.

The investigation involves some 13 commanders of the MILF and six of the BIFF. Four of the respondents have submitted affidavit denying the charges of direct assault with murder.

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Investigators are also examining videos of the killings that went viral on social media.

Caparas also said he did not expect the outcome of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano carnage last Wednesday to affect the drafting of a resolution.

“In our assessment, there’s nothing really new there, so whatever is on the table now, we continue,” he said.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said last Wednesday’s Senate hearing failed to establish President Aquino’s direct link to the police operation that led to the deaths of 44 SAF commandos.

He said the President had been fed the wrong information by some police officials particularly then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas.

Coloma said that while the Office of the Ombudsman is now conducting a probe on Napeñas, Congress would have to take steps to avoid a repeat of the Mamasapano incident – specifically, reviewing the PNP Law.

He said it was largely Napeñas’ failure to make the necessary coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines that threw the SAF operation in disarray.

Coloma also pointed out that in a photo taken at 4:14 p.m. on Jan. 25 last year or hours after the bloody encounter, Napeñas did not appear concerned about the fate of his men.

“He did not have a mindset of a commander seriously concerned with the welfare of his troops and he belittled the seriousness of the situation. All of these are important responsibility of a commander,” the presidential spokesman said.

“In all instances, the Aquino administration adhered to the truth.  Our position has been transparent, the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police and the government did not conceal anything and answered all questions that were thrown in various investigations regarding this,” Coloma pointed out.

He also said the nation had been witness to the pronouncements of Napeñas, the AFP and PNP officials that there was no stand down order from the President. Napeñas said Purisima told him to order the SAF operatives to hold their positions because they were talking to the MILF.

“That is why in my view, as witness to the seven-hour investigation, the allegations of Senator (Juan Ponce) Enrile were effectively answered and belied,” Coloma said.

He added Napeñas’ allegations that the military was compromised and should not be told about sensitive operations were baseless.

“That is the personal opinion and assessment of Director Napeñas that does not necessarily reflect the situation, the overall situation,” Coloma said.

Nothing established

At the Senate, Aquino’s allies reiterated that he should not be held liable for the Mamasapano carnage.

Senate President Franklin Drilon noted that nothing was established against President Aquino’s liability after hours of the chamber’s discussion on the issue last Wednesday.

“The nearly seven-hour hearing would show that it was actually Napeñas who crafted Oplan Exodus. It was he in fact who signed the Oplan Exodus as author of the document,” the Senate president said.

“He deliberately disregarded the President’s instruction to coordinate with the AFP and as a result of that it was Napeñas who compartmentalized the operation of Mamasapano to himself and Purisima because of his distrust of the AFP,” Drilon added.

While there was “nothing earthshaking” about last Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said nothing could prevent Enrile from filing a separate report or opinion on the Mamasapano incident.

In case a criminal case is filed against President Aquino after his term ends on June 30, Pimentel said the burden would be on the person who would pursue charges against the president as private citizen.

The Senate president reiterated that Cabinet members, police and military officers negated the “assertions on stand down.”

Although he said he does not want to pre-empt Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chairperson Sen. Grace Poe, Drilon echoed her statement that there is nothing more to add to the 129-page committee report after Wednesday’s reopening of inquiry.

The Poe report had found Aquino ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano tragedy.

Drilon said the committee report has not been approved by the Senate. A total of 20 senators have signed the report. Those who did not sign were Drilon, Enrile, Senators Lito Lapid and Antonio Trillanes IV.

“I do not know if she will submit that report to the Senate for approval, in which case it will be debated upon. As of now it remains a committee report that has not been acted upon by the Senate,” Drilon said.  Aurea Calica, Christina Mendez, Helen Flores

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