Poe panel invites Cabinet, SAF men to probe
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II have been invited to attend the Senate reinvestigation on the Mamasapano massacre at 10 a.m. on Jan. 27.

Former Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas, a senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance, will also attend the hearing.

Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chairman Grace Poe said yesterday President Aquino should be held liable for command responsibility over the Mamasapano debacle that led to the slaughter of 44 police commandos on Jan. 25 last year. Eighteen rebels and five civilians were also killed in the encounter.

“Right now, we stand by our report,” she said.

“We have no intent to replace or add any other subjects in our discussions unless there are new evidence that might affect the outcome of the (committee) report.

“I am confident that we have asked the pertinent questions but Senator Enrile might have a different style of questioning so we will leave it up to him… nobody objected from the Rules Committee and even during plenary,” he said, referring to the reopening of the inquiry pushed by the minority leader.

Napeñas said Enrile had invited him to attend the hearing. He met with Enrile last week but he declined to divulge details of their discussion.

He believes the allegations of Enrile that Aquino was directly involved in the Mamasapano operation last year, Napeñas said. 

Enrile had said that he has evidence to prove that on that fateful day, Aquino was monitoring the operation while he was on a plane to Zamboanga City.

Enrile would also show evidence that some Cabinet members did not disclose the facts in past Senate hearings.

Napeñas said Enrile may have basis for saying what he had said. 

“The President has full knowledge of the Mamasapano (operation),” he said.

Poe said the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs focused on Aquino’s liability as commander-in-chief.

“When you say that it’s your responsibility, it only means that you also have direct authority,” she said in Filipino.

“It’s unconventional because we are asking about the chain of command, but if you commit a mistake, for example a commander in his decision on the ground, you cannot hold him liable for any criminal liability for a wrong judgment call.” 

Aquino’s liability focused only on his action or inaction as commander-in-chief, Poe said.

Also invited to the hearing are National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia  Jr., former Armed Forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima,  former PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina, PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Army 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Armed Forces Western  Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, PNP intelligence chief Fernando Mendez, Director Benjamin Magalong as chair of the PNP Board of Inquiry, former SAF deputy director Chief Supt. Noli Talino, Zamboanga peninsula police director Chief Supt. Edgar Orduna Basbas, 4th  SAF Battalion commander Sr. Supt. Hendrix Mangaldan, Sr. Supt. Richard de la Rosa, Supts. Michael John Mangahis, Abraham Abayari, Raymund Train, Chief Insp. Recaredo Marasigan and Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan.

‘Politically motivated’

Enrile’s move to reopen the Mamasapano investigation could be politically motivated, Malacañang said yesterday.

Coloma said Aquino had told reporters that politics could be the motivation behind the reopening of the investigation.

Enrile was using the Mamasapano issue as a bargaining chip to have his former chief of staff,  Jessica Lucila Reyes, who is detained on plunder charges, released on bail, according to reports.

On many occasions Aquino has spoken publicly and answered questions from the media about Mamasapano, Coloma said over Radio Mindanao Network.

Aquino apparently referred to Enrile when he said in Davao City on Jan. 8 that he could see politics behind the reopening of the Mamasapano investigation because the one pushing it had an ax to grind against him and his administration.

Coloma said Aquino’s position was clear – that he was doing what was right, reasonable and just in all instances.

“What’s important for him is the fulfillment of his sworn duties, following the Constitution and all of the laws because he is Chief Executive or chief implementer of all the country’s laws,” he said.

“So it is very clear… the President is always honest, open and forthright when it comes to the incident in Mamasapano.” 

Coloma said then justice secretary Leila de Lima had explained that Aquino was not commander-in-chief of the Philippine National Police, a civilian organization, and need not follow a chain of command.

Aquino dared

Napeñas challenged yesterday Aquino to own up to his accountability as commander-in-chief in the botched Oplan Exodus.

He said Aquino cannot escape responsibility for the debacle, which then suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima had directed.

“As I testified before Congress hearings, the President had direct knowledge of Oplan Exodus when we carried it out,” he told The STAR

Napeñas said Aquino could have done something more as commander-in-chief to save his men while he was in Zamboanga City along with former Armed Forces chief Gen. Pio Catapang and the former Western Command chief Gen. Rustico Guerrero. 

He was in constant communications with General Guerrero and requesting for artillery support that could have saved the day for the trapped SAF commandos, he added.

But no artillery support came until it was too late, he said.

Napeñas said  he is ready to reaffirm his previous testimony and appear again before a Senate public hearing set next week.

At the outset, Napeñas denied that he was the source of information of  Enrile.

He said Enrile has complete and genuine documentation of the Mamasapano massacre.

He could only surmise Enrile gathered these documents when he was still under hospital detention at the PNP Medical Center in Quezon City.

Before the scheduled Senate hearing, Napeñas said he would join the widows and families of the slain commandos to commemorate their valor and sacrifice to carry out Oplan Exodus.

However, he has no idea yet where the first  death anniversary of the SAF 44 would be held.  – With Marichu Villanueva, Helen Flores, Aurea Calica, Mayen Jaymalin

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