Will Senate play audio on Mamasapano?

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - While it is unlawful to release or even possess an audio recording of a supposed conversation between top government officials about a possible cover-up of the Mamasapano carnage, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday he won’t stop a Senate panel from playing the audio recording as part of its re investigation into the tragedy.

This developed as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles again denied having advised President Aquino against sending reinforcements to beleaguered Special Action Force commandos battling Muslim guerrillas in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year.

A retired police general – Diosdado Valeroso – has surfaced to claim he has an audio recording of a purported plot to whitewash the Mamasapano tragedy.

“But let me just remind Valeroso that under Republic Act 4200 the unauthorized recording of conversations is unlawful, and may be punishable by six months to one year (in prison),” Drilon said.

“And the evidence of such a conversation is also inadmissible as evidence under the Anti-Wiretapping Law, Republic Act 4200,” he stressed.

Drilon said he has already warned the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Grace Poe of the consequences of releasing the recording to the public.

“But you know, it’s really up to the committee whether or not this will be allowed. I am just stating the law, lest they say again that we are suppressing evidence, we are not. We are just stating the present law,” he said.

“Now if the committee chooses to disregard this, and play whatever that recording is, then that is a decision that the committee will have to make,” he said.

At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it would be up to Valeroso to prove there was a cover up.

A background check on Valeroso, according to Coloma, showed that he was a former member of the Reform Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and the Young Officers Union (YOU) who took part in the August 1987 coup d’etat.

The Senate panel reopens tomorrow its investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy, with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile promising to drop a bombshell that would supposedly directly link President Aquino to the deaths last year of 44 SAF policemen at the hands of guerrillas belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Authenticity check

Poe emphasized yesterday her committee would first assess the authenticity of the audio recording before deciding whether it could be used to help her panel in its work.

“We don’t know where the recordings came from. So, he should be able to tell us where it came from. We should conduct due diligence in verifying the origin of this recording,” Poe said.

“We may accept (the recordings) as a submission but with regard to the authenticity, we will not be able to validate that until we’ve also checked the list and investigate the source,” she said.

About 15 to 18 police officers, including Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, are set to attend tomorrow’s reopening of the investigation into the Mamasapano encounter. Marquez said he and his men have been invited by Poe’s committee to attend the hearing.

The PNP Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PNPAAAI), for its part, has voiced support for the reopening of the Mamsapano investigation as requested by Enrile.

“Despite the many high profile investigations conducted by the Senate, Congress, the PNP and the DOJ on this unprecedented treachery, we are far from unearthing the whole truth,” PNPAAAI chairman Tomas Rentoy III said in a letter to Enrile.

Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo also expressed openness to a reinvestigation of the Mamasapano incident but stressed it should be based on new evidence and not be used as forum for politicking and mudslinging.

“Justice can be only achieved if we find the whole truth. If there’s new evidence, why not? But that matter must be made clear because it’s election time and this could be used by some people,” Robredo said.

The military, meanwhile, said it is hopeful of seeing a closure to the Mamasapano incident.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said they are ready to cooperate with Poe’s committee “if we are asked to provide the necessary reports or if they ask our officers to attend.”

Detoyato said the military and the police in the provinces are now conducting monthly planning conferences to ensure that all operations are well coordinated.

“We continue to sympathize with our police counterparts. We hope the issue will have a closure so we can recover from this episode,” he added.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military continues to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of all SAF personnel involved in the Mamasapano operation, where 18 rebels and five civilians were also killed. 

As Poe’s Senate panel reopens its probe on the Mamasapano tragedy, Sens. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and JV Ejercito scored the slow pace of justice for the fallen 44 policemen. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jose Rodel Clapano, Alexis Romero, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Perseus Echeminada












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