‘Noy made error in judgment’
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2015 - 12:00am

De Lima says P-Noy’s accountability not criminal  

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has admitted that President Aquino is accountable for the death of 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos during the Jan. 25 raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

De Lima, however, stressed that the President’s accountability is not criminal.

“That is an error in judgment that one can only know from hindsight. As we all know, hindsight is 50-50, and it is so easy to play armchair presidents these days,” De Lima said in a speech at the annual district conference of Rotary International last Friday.

De Lima maintained that the President has no criminal liability pertaining to supposed violation of the chain of command in the Philippine National Police (PNP), which she insisted does not exist.

“From the beginning, we in the DOJ (Department of Justice) have been clear in saying that the chain of command as a military construct is not applicable to the PNP, especially in relation to the President’s prerogatives,” she stressed.

De Lima made the distinction on the functions of the President as chief executive and as commander-in-chief.

She said being the chief executive is what Aquino exercises on a daily basis, while the role of commander-in-chief emphasizes civilian supremacy over the military.

“I mention this distinction not to minimize or lessen the President’s command responsibility in either scenario, if, when we speak of ‘command responsibility,’ we speak of accountability. The President is of course accountable. No question about it,” she pointed out.

“However, the distinction is important when we ask whether he has anything to account for in, as some say, ‘violating the chain of command’,” she added.

De Lima contested the premise used in the Board of Inquiry (BOI) and Senate reports on the Mamasapano incident.

She questioned the BOI and Senate findings, which was supported by former President Fidel Ramos who cited an executive order he issued during his term applying the chain of command to the PNP.

De Lima said the EO only provided for application of “command of superior responsibility” in cases of accountability of officials on the basis of certain standards like knowledge and negligence.

She reiterated her call for the public not to judge Aquino following the BOI and Senate reports that pointed to him as “ultimately responsible” for the encounter.

“The President should not be judged that easily because this President is a very responsible person and he has the interest of our country at heart,” she said.

De Lima called the supposed prejudgment on Aquino based on the BOI and Senate reports as “unfair.”

Malacañang maintained the President has been judged both in the Senate and the BOI report without hearing his side of the story.

The BOI said Aquino broke the chain of command by dealing with suspended national police chief Alan Purisima and relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas with regard to the operation but later clarified it did not mean he violated anything.

The Senate, on the other hand, found the President ultimately responsible for the incident even if Malacañang had been saying that his orders were disobeyed by his subordinates.

Aquino has categorically and repeatedly blamed Napeñas for the massacre of 44 policemen in Mamasapano.

Aquino had stressed he was lied to and misled by his officials over the bungled police operation.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino would still be willing to explain to the public whatever needs expounding, so the public may know and see the big picture.

“The President’s communication policy is clear: A well-informed citizenry will be sufficiently guided in decision-making and in determining the actions they wish to pursue,” Coloma said.

“Hence, government has endeavored at all times to give all the necessary information in the spirit of openness and transparency and to promote accountability in the public service,” he added.

Coloma urged the public to communicate with the President their sentiments and feedback on pressing issues through the President’s website and social media accounts.

“The government is willing to provide information and explanation, not only on the Mamasapano incident, but on all pressing issues and problems our country is facing,” Coloma said.

“We are open to any suggestions from our bosses, our citizens, on how to better implement policy and programs of the government,” he added.

Public outrage over the killing of the SAF policemen and questions surrounding Aquino’s handling of the issue have blow up into his biggest political crisis.

The Mamasapano fiasco turned into a rallying point for critics calling on Aquino to resign.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, thumbed down calls for the President’s resignation over the mishandling of the Mamasapano incident.

“I’m not party to that (calls for Aquino’s resignation). He was elected… let him finish his term,” Binay said.

Binay said the allegations and accusations of Aquino’s critics were not sufficient for the President to step down.

Binay said however that the Aquino administration would have to reconsider its position on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) following Mamasapano.

Binay stressed the government should not rush the passage of the BBL.

The BBL, drafted under the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, will be ratified through a plebiscite.

Deliberations on the BBL were stalled following the involvement of the MILF in the killing of elite police in Mamasapano on Jan. 25.

The slain policemen were part of the SAF team on a mission to capture one of the world’s most wanted terrorists hiding in a remote village in Mamasapano.

The raiding lawmen figured in firefight with MILF and the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as they were about to leave the area. – With Delon Porcalla, Roel Pareño

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