Palace: Noy has spoken on Mamasapano
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has spoken on the Mamasapano incident, Malacañang maintained yesterday, as it called on senators not to use the new investigation for political purposes and observe “inter-branch courtesy” amid plans to invite the Chief Executive and other Cabinet officials to the proceedings.

Asked if he could categorically answer whether Aquino would appear or not once formally invited to the hearings, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said: “I am only reminding the people about the events that transpired last year and I am also just reminding them that the President had spoken… and in all those opportunities the government had been open and transparent and never at anytime hid any information.”

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said Aquino was welcome to attend the investigation so the President could explain his actions or inaction that might have led to the tragedy.

Citing new evidence and testimonies from survivors, Enrile sought the reopening of the investigation into the killing of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Maguindanao on Jan. 25 to be led by the committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Grace Poe.

“From the very beginning, the government has been open and transparent with regard to the developments in Mamasapano… President Aquino has discussed the issues regarding this several times in his public addresses last year: during the Jan. 28 and Feb. 6 press conference in Malacañang; the March 9 inter-faith prayer gathering (also) in Malacañang; and the March 26 Philippine National Police Academy commencement exercises in Cavite,” Coloma said in a press briefing.

He reiterated that separate investigations on the incident were conducted and completed by the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry, the House of Representatives, Senate, Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Guidelines for Cabinet members

“If the legislators want to invite any member of the Cabinet, there are guidelines set under Section 22, Article 6 on the legislative department of the 1987 Constitution. It states: ‘The heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, or as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments,’” Coloma said.

Section 22 further states that “written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance. Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the state or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session.”

Coloma stressed the executive and legislative were co-equal branches of government and thus processes under the law must be followed when it came to investigations.

Coloma said though the Palace never kept any information from the public, they would be ready to answer questions to be prepared by any legislator even before the reopening of the Senate investigation.

“And they can also freely press appropriate cases or charges against any individual or organization (if they have) enough basis,” Coloma said.

Enrile invoked yesterday his love for country as reason for calling for the reopening of the Mamasapano inquiry at the Senate, debunking further the Palace’s claims that his call had political undertones.

“If they have noting to hide, why will they hesitate to allow the investigation? I’m not going to be personal about this. We are serving the country,” Enrile said. “People have the right to know what happened.”

It will be one year since the Mamasamano tragedy struck the heart of the nation on Jan. 25 last year.

Enrile said President Aquino should not suspect any motive on his part on his intent to ask questions regarding the President’s action or inaction upon being properly informed about the encounter between the police special forces and rebel forces allied with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

“I have no motive here except to serve the interest of the country and I think he is also interested in serving the interest of the country. There is no doubt about that,” Enrile added.

Noy should not be invited

The Senate should not invite Aquino to its inquiry on the Mamasapano incident, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said yesterday.

“Out of courtesy to his office, the President should not be invited,” he said.

He said Enrile has every right to be enlightened on the SAF raid in Mamasapano, but the senator should not insist on inviting Aquino.

Albano, who belongs to the minority bloc in the House of Representatives, also urged senators to “move on.”

“While we respect the decision of the Senate to reopen the investigation, I believe it is the work of judicial bodies and not Congress to conduct the probe when new evidence surfaces,” he said, adding that conducting new hearings on the Mamasapano incident “will just reopen old wounds.”

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said yesterday the President’s attendance in the scheduled reopening of the Senate investigation on the Mamasapano incident is key to resolving lingering questions on the bloodbath.

“The President should no longer rely on his subordinates to answer questions concerning his actual role in the whole operation. If Aquino is sincere in his call for the truth, he should attend the Senate hearing,” he said. – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero

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