Senators wary over playing Mamasapano audio tapes

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Some senators are wary of the audio recording that contains the alleged conversation between a ranking government official and a lawmaker on the Mamasapano incident.

The recording is due to be presented by retired police Chief Superintendent Diosdado Valeroso when the Senate reopens its probe on the incident that led to the deaths of 44 police Special Action Force members (SAF 44) exactly a year ago today. Twenty three others – rebels as well as civilians – were also killed in the encounter.

Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that probed the shootout, said the panel would deal with the recordings if raised before the committee.

“The joint committees will take up the matter as a body if there is a motion by a member-senator to hear the Valeroso recording. Assuming the recording is established to be authentic, joint committees will have to discuss first the legality of airing and its admissibility,” Poe told The STAR.

The Senate committees on public order; peace, unification and reconciliation; and finance would resume their inquiry on Wednesday after minority leader Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile vowed to present new pieces of evidence to prove that President Aquino allowed the slaughter of the SAF 44 in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a private armed group.

Senators Juan Edgardo Angara and Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said the audio recording might be played during the hearing unless one or any of the parties in the recorded conversations invoke privacy and bar anybody from listening to it.

“(It) can be played unless somebody comes out and questions the recording. I remember we discussed this during the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy when I was still a congressman,” Angara said in a radio interview.

Pimentel said that although there is no law barring the playing of the recording at the Senate, he wants to err on the side of caution.

“When it comes to playing it, we can play it. But will we believe it? Number, one (it involves) a lawmaker (who) is a member of a collegial body. Whatever the lawmaker may say cannot bind the entire institution,” Pimentel added. “Let’s listen to it but we might be wasting our time.”

 In the name of justice, Pimentel said he would be liberal and lenient on the technicalities as he also consented to reopening the Mamasapano inquiry on Wednesday.

 Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, welcomed the reopening but cautioned lawmakers to make it factual and should not affect the Bangsamoro Basic Law being pushed by Aquino and the MILF.

“If we are going to reopen because there are issues still to be addressed, all questions should focus there. I am hoping that it will be factual and it will help to [give the] big picture of what really happened,” Deles said.

She added that the reinvestigation should put closure on questions that continue to linger and help people understand.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the House is set to vote on the BBL on Wednesday.

Justice for SAF 44

Valeroso, who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, said he is simply helping the SAF 44 and their families get justice by holding those behind the fiasco responsible.

“My purpose is (to find out) the truth, accountability and justice. What really happened, before, during and after the Mamasapano encounter,” Valeroso told The STAR. “Nobody is behind (my decision to come out with this info). All I can say is this is between me and my Creator.”

He refused to disclose who the ranking government officer and lawmaker in the recording, which lasted for about 15 minutes, were and begged off from revealing its contents as he preferred to submit the evidence without adding or deducting anything from it.

Valeroso hinted though that the conversation took place “a day or two” after the bloody incident and that the two persons in the recording were discussing an attempt to cover up the Mamasapano incident.

Hello Garci’ scandal

 Angara noted that the Mamasapano “audio recording” is reminiscent of the “Hello Garci” scandal during the Arroyo administration.

 He said there is a prohibition under the Anti-Wiretapping Law that may prevent the Senate from playing the recording when one of those involved will come out to authenticate the recording and invoke the right to privacy.

 The lawmaker though recognized the power of social media, where audio recordings or video footage may become viral even without the consent of those in them.

 He also did not discount the possibility that the recording, just like in the Hello Garci scandal where then president Gloria Arroyo talked with former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about manipulating the 2004 polls, may be leaked to the public.  – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Cecille Suerte Felipe













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