JPE wants Noy invited to Mamasapano probe

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - When the Senate reopens its investigation into the killing of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, President Aquino may be invited to face the chamber to answer some questions – that is if Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile gets his wish.

Enrile said he wanted Aquino to attend the hearing – to be led by the committee on public order and dangerous drugs – so the Chief Executive could explain his actions or inaction that may have led to the tragedy.

“If P-Noy wants to answer the questions I intend to ask, I will welcome him,” Enrile said. “And if he wants to attend the hearing in the Senate, he is welcome to do so.”

The commandos – members of the elite Special Action Force – were leaving a barrio in Mamasapano in Maguindanao after killing a notorious Malaysian terrorist when they encountered guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The commandos waited for reinforcements that never came.

The Senate committee on public order agreed to reopen the probe upon the request of Enrile, who cited new information regarding the incident.

In a speech, Enrile said there is a need to look into “sensitive periods” before and after the Jan. 25 incident.

“What happened to the government? Was it functioning? Was it in paralysis? Why was there a complete silence during these periods, this critical period? What happened to the entire instrument of government to maintain order in this country, to protect the people?” Enrile asked.

“Was there a government in those moments? We would like to get the answers to these because if there was no government, then there was something wrong, terribly wrong with our system of government,” he added.

Apart from President Aquino, some senators are also inclined to urge Liberal Party standard-bearer and former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II to attend the inquiry.

“Let us remember that Sec. Roxas was then head of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government). He can be invited even if he has resigned from post. As a private person, the Senate can also compel him to attend the hearings,” a source told The STAR.

Up to senators

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.  said it would be up to senators to decide on whether to participate in the hearing, amid Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s call for some of his colleagues to inhibit from the probe to ensure impartiality.

On Friday, Aquino said the senators’ decision to reopen the Mamasapano investigation was politically motivated. Cayetano is running for vice president.

Roxas said he would rather not comment on calls for Poe – a rival in the presidential race – to inhibit, but expressed his willingness to attend the probe if summoned.

“You know, it’s not for me to comment on somebody else’s conduct, especially if she is my rival,” Roxas told reporters in Cavite last Sunday.

“If they invite me, okay. I’m not hiding anything. And after several hearings and they still want to know something, why not?” he added.

Roxas claimed he was left out of the loop when the SAF operation was planned and executed.

Falling on deaf ears

Cayetano’s call may have fallen on deaf ears. Poe has made clear she would attend the hearing as the chairperson of the Senate committee on public order.

Poe said she has demonstrated her impartiality in the past and that she would continue to do so in the Jan. 25 hearing.

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that there is no reason to ask any of the senators to inhibit from the hearing, as it is their job to ask questions during the proceedings.

He said it should be up to the public to judge the motives of the senators based on their actions or behavior during the hearing.

“If the concern is that this would be used for political purposes, I think we should just leave it up to the Filipino people (to judge) because they can see whether a person is merely grandstanding or is truly committed to bringing justice to the families of the SAF 44,” Marcos said.

“The entire country wants to find out what really happened to the people who killed the policemen,” Marcos said in Filipino.

He said he is fully supportive of the call to reopen the Mamasapano probe because he wants to know the status of the cases against the perpetrators.

Sen. Ralph Recto, who is running for reelection, also rejected the call of Cayetano.

“I will be attending the hearing to find out if there are any new evidences. That’s the purpose why we are reopening the investigation,” Recto said.

“It’s part of our work. We must be accountable and responsible for the work of our elected positions. We owe it to the people. If we are given media exposure for our work, then so be it,” Sen. Vicente Sotto III said.

For Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, the Senate’s move to reopen the Mamasapano probe would greatly help determine the extent of involvement of President Aquino and some of his Cabinet officials.

“This is the chance for the Senate to clearly pinpoint command responsibility and hold government executives, including President Aquino himself, accountable for the bloodbath,” Ridon said. Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero

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