‘Noy ultimately responsible’

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - For the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan.25 that left scores dead including 44 police commandos, President Aquino has been found “ultimately responsible” by three Senate committees that investigated the tragedy.


Sen. Grace Poe presented yesterday their findings to the media as she urged the President to own up to responsibility for Operation Plan Exodus targeting Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and two other terrorists.

The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry (BOI) earlier came up with almost the same conclusion.

In a report containing their findings, the senators also held that what happened in Mamasapano was not a misencounter but a massacre of the policemen by guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“He is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission,” Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said.

The other committees in the joint investigation were the committees on finance and on peace, unification and reconciliation.

“The President, the buck stops with him. If he can own up to it, I’m sure the people would be less confused,” Poe said, adding that “nobody is infallible” in the government.

She said Aquino knew about Exodus from its planning stage to its execution. Poe said the President was also aware of the pleas for reinforcement for the embattled Special Action Force (SAF) commandos from then SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas.

President Aquino earlier insisted Napeñas and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima lied to him about the operation.

In the report, the senators said Purisima committed “usurpation of authority or official functions” in violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code, and Section 36(b)(4) of PD 807 (The Civil Service Code).

In addition, an administrative complaint may be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against Purisima for “grave misconduct” and “conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”

Napeñas, according to the report, committed “grave misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties and for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service” under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in Civil Service.

Poe said Aquino “assented to Purisima’s unlawful exercise of official functions,” particularly the latter’s “usurpation of authority or official functions.”

“It is imperative that the President display unquestionable leadership, be forthright and candid with our people, accept the responsibility for decisions made, and mistakes perhaps, along the way,” Poe said.

After five public hearings and five executive sessions, Poe said they became convinced that the President and other high-ranking government officials “could have done more under the circumstances to prevent or minimize the number of deaths that jolted the nation.”

Poe noted that the President and top security officials met in Zamboanga City on the day of the Mamasapano operation, but did nothing significant to help the beleaguered SAF commandos.

Had the President and his officials “discussed the incident and shared information clearly and openly in the early stages of the tragic day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives could have been lost,” Poe said.

With President Aquino in Zamboanga City were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, among others.

They were purportedly in the province to evaluate developments after terror bombings. Roxas and Espina turned out to be unaware of the Mamasapano operations then.


Not enough action

Since the President was familiar with the plan, Poe said he “might have stepped in and displayed stronger positioning leadership regarding the rescue operations if he was given the proper information.”

The senator said that while commanders make decisions on the ground, “strong interagency coordination could have been easily ordered” by the President in the Mamasapano operation.

“In his defense, the President said he was given inaccurate information, and I think we were able to validate that also with the texts made available to us. Even the President himself was asking, ‘if you say that there were only this many unfriendly forces or enemies, why are we retreating if we are not outnumbered?’’’

She lamented that the President had also apparently failed to use his position’s “great power” and “vast resources” to help the trapped SAF members.

“The decision of the President and his men not to use those resources immediately to prevent the carnage must be explained,” she added.

Poe also said the President can only be held accountable through the impeachment process. But she stressed it’s up to the House of Representatives to make its next move.

“The repercussion to the President is clearly political, that’s why I sympathize also with what he is going through and I feel that the best way that we can rectify, we cannot bring back the lives of those men, but at least to lay down whatever shortcomings that were not intentional, that could have been prevented,” she added.

Poe also said an apology and assurance of help to the bereaved families of the slain SAF men is something the President may consider.

“Perhaps, any leader in this situation would benefit from…apologizing, stating the truth and number three, ensuring the welfare of the families of the victims and… to prosecute those who are responsible for the criminal offense,” Poe added.

Poe said 10 senators signed their committee report last night. It needs three more signatures to get majority approval.

If it gets at least 13 signatures, the report would be submitted for plenary discussion today, which is the last session day before Congress goes into Lenten break until May 3, Poe said.

She also said the report can be used as basis for possible criminal charges in court, if approved by the majority, since it “comprised sworn affidavits.” She stressed the President is immune from legal suits.



In its report, the Senate joint panel also described as a “massacre” the deaths of the SAF men at the hands of the MILF and BIFF fighters and recommended the filing of appropriate criminal charges.

“The concerned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups murdered and robbed the 44 PNP-SAF commandos,” Poe said.

“The SAF troopers were outnumbered by various armed groups in the Pintakasi which included the MILF, BIFF and private armed groups. The members of the 55th and 84th Special Action Company (SAC) were no match for the firepower coming from the hundreds of armed men surrounding them,” the report said. Pintakasi is a local term for armed villagers ganging up on intruders, particularly security forces.

“The trajectories of the bullets further indicate that the shots were fired while victims lay on the ground. One skull was so severely injured that the point of exit could no longer be determined,” the report read.

“Clearly, there was no intent to let any of these men live,” it added.

She debunked the MILF’s claims that the shooting was an act of self-defense.

“The assailants cannot validly claim that its fighters acted in self-defense because of the absence of the element of unlawful aggression on the part of the PNP-SAF troopers,” the report said.

“The MILF fighters approached and surrounded the 55th SAC, and later on, initiated the firefight with them. On the contrary, the unlawful aggression was on the part of the MILF fighters. The MILF’s claim of self-defense is, therefore, unavailing,” the report added.


US hand

The report also cited the major role played by the United States in Oplan Exodus.

“The mission was not 100-percent Filipino-planned and implemented. US personnel played a role in the training for and monitoring of the said operation,” she added, contradicting an earlier pronouncement from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, however, reiterated it was a 100 percent Philippine operation. “I stand by my statement,” he told The STAR last night.

The committees found that the US “substantially invested in the entirety of Oplan Exodus.”

“They provided equipment, training and intelligence. However, this raises the question of whether the PNP leadership would have entered into such a risky and hazardous operation without the support of the United States and the $5-million reward offered for Marwan’s capture,” Poe added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. introduced Senate Resolution 1240 directing the government peace negotiating panel chaired by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer to request and secure a copy from the MILF of the report of their investigation into the Mamasaspano incident.

On recommendation by Senate President Franklin Drilon, the resolution was amended to also “request” the MILF to provide the Senate a copy of its report. MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier said that based on agreement, only Malaysia as third party facilitator would be given a copy of its report.

vuukle comment










  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with