No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2015 - 12:00am

SILANG, Cavite, Philippines  – There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

“To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).

He said he is “also human” and commits mistakes, but that he was speaking the truth with God as his witness.

“I am aware of this: that no words will suffice to explain the deaths of our brave policemen. A report or a speech can never reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who lost a good child. All I can do, after saying all that must be said and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding,” the President said.

The Mamasapano crisis has pulled down Aquino’s approval and trust ratings to record lows.

“Regardless of my anger for the disregard for the orders I gave, regardless of my regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from me, I can never erase the fact: 44 members of our police force are dead. And this happened under my term,” he said.

“Let me stress it: I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave.”

He reiterated that as President, “I am fully responsible for any result – any triumph, any suffering and any tragedy” arising from any decision or move of his to protect the people and ensure peace.

“I am saddened by the fact that, despite my effort to give the families space to grieve, as they were to meet their fallen loved ones for the first time, some people found fault in this by calling me cruel or without regard for such loss,” Aquino said, referring to the outrage sparked by his absence at the arrival honors for the fallen SAF commandos at the Villamor Air Base.

He said that while he is the leader of the country, he cannot read minds or personally monitor every situation.

“But as I have promised, I will continue to do what is right and just. I will continue to exert every effort to serve all of you and to faithfully fulfill my sworn mandate,” Aquino said.

“I am not saying that I am like God, who knows everything, but I have a duty to right whatever wrong I discover. And I assure you: We respect due process. Those responsible will be held to account,” he added.

The President maintained he was fed the wrong information by those in charge of Oplan Exodus but did not mention the names of resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas.

He expressed hope the new PNPA graduates would use their training and skills “not simply to successfully fulfill your missions but also, and more importantly, to protect the safety of all.”


The President also took a jab at the PNP Board of Inquiry and the Senate for presenting “guesswork, instead of facts” in their findings on the Mamasapano incident.

He said that while the reports of the BOI and the Senate “reaffirm the position we had taken from the very beginning,” these reportedly contained speculations.

“What saddens me is that at times, in lieu of asking me questions, those who prepared the reports chose to speculate instead,” Aquino said.

The President reiterated that he did not send the police commandos on a suicide mission.

“Let me emphasize: I would not have allowed those in our uniformed services to embark on a suicide mission. If an operation poses serious danger, I will always be the very first to call for its cancellation,” the President said.

Aquino said the version of the plan presented to him convinced him that adequate preparations had been set in place and that the mission would be executed correctly.

“I also assumed that all my orders would be followed, especially since I was dealing with professionals regarding the matter,” he said, adding he was made to believe that mechanized units and artillery were on the way to help the beleaguered SAF men.

He also clarified that he was in Zamboanga City on the day Exodus was carried out to personally check on security developments in the wake of terror attacks by rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front. It was after seeing the situation first hand that he directed security officials to consider the city a “hardened site.”

He said it was close to evening when he was informed of the situation in Mamasapano, particularly the futility of linking up units involved in the operation to arrest terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Filipino cohort Basit Usman.

“The minimum I agreed to was to deliver aid, such as medicine and resupply ammunition, granted that linking up was impossible. With God as my witness, I tell you the truth. But I am aware there are those who are close-minded, who will not listen regardless of what I say,” he said.

He said he fully understands why Filipinos expect so much from their leader. “Our rights were set aside for many years. For the longest time, we were deprived of what we truly deserved,” Aquino said.

“When I took my oath of office, I said: The wang-wang (blaring siren) mindset cannot and will not prevail. We would work to end the kind of system where only a few benefit, while the majority of our countrymen suffer,” he said.

He said it was under his administration that “we have fixed the problems in our path.”

“We have gone after the corrupt. We restored the trust of our people in their government. Once we were called ‘the Sick Man of Asia,’ and today we are hailed as ‘Asia’s rising tiger’,” Aquino said.

Facts, not speculation

Reacting to President Aquino’s pronouncement, Sens. Grace Poe and Francis Escudero said everything in the Senate report on the Mamasapano clash was based on facts and not speculation.

Poe said the Senate report assessed the President’s action or apparent inaction based on his text messages with Purisima. She said assessments of the events in Zamboanga were also based on text messages between the two.

Escudero said that aside from the text messages, Aquino’s speeches and statements had also helped investigators connect the dots in the Mamasapano operation.

At the same time, the two senators called on the public to give the President the chance to redeem himself after he personally sought for understanding.

Poe added that the President’s appeal for understanding – coupled with his affirmation that the whole incident rests on his shoulder as President – is a welcome development and can start the healing process, particularly among the bereaved families of the SAF men.

“Let us wait for the public reaction to the speech. Because two months have already elapsed, it may turn out to be a matter of too little, too late,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said.

Sens. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joseph Victor Ejercito maintained that the President could have done more than just appeal for understanding.

“It’s too little too late, the public and SAF families do not want excuses, they need to know the whole truth on the part he played in Oplan Exodus,” Marcos said.

“Filipinos are generally very forgiving and understanding. His pride is unbelievable,” Ejercito said.

While he welcomed the President’s appeal for understanding, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said the President was “not the best person” to criticize the BOI and the Senate findings.

President Aquino’s taking responsibility and seeking understanding for the Mamasapano incident “should be enough,” said Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III.

“He reiterated that he is taking responsibility for the death of 44 policemen in Mamasapano. He asked for the people’s understanding, though he stopped short of saying sorry,” he said.

“We’re not surprised that that was his speech. He’s still making excuses and emphasizing that he’s got nothing to do with it,” Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent bloc, said in reaction to Aquino’s speech.

“What’s so difficult about saying sorry? The people have become disgusted every time he defends himself,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said.

Rep. Neri Colmenares said Aquino was still blaming others for his blunder, although indirectly.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon called the speech a “classic non-apology apology.”

Meanwhile, PNPA spokesman Chief Inspector Richie Yatar said justice for the 44 SAF men is all that the new graduates wish for. With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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