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Senate reinvestigation will seek to clarify President’s role in Mamasapano – JPE

President Aquino’s participation in the covert operation that killed the 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) is still a mystery despite a Senate committee report that found the Chief Executive “ultimately responsible” for the January 25 incident.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said this is why he pushed for the reopening of the Senate’s investigation into the Mamasapano incident in which the SAF troopers were killed along with some fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups as well.

The primary objective of the police operation was to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as “Marwan,” and Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman. The SAF troopers killed Marwan while Usman was killed in a separate military operation.

Enrile rejected a Malacañang contention that his and the decision of the three Senate committees to reopen the Mamasapano probe was politically motivated.

“I want to know what his participation in the whole project was,” Enrile said. “Whose project was this? Was it solely a Philippine project or was it a project induced by other interests? I want to know all of these.”

Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, head of the Senate Committee on Public Order, which took the lead in the investigation, released its own report finding Aquino “ultimately responsible” for the operation and the death killing of the SAF troopers.

Enrile said the participation of the President which was not clearly stated in the Senate committee report.

“The thrust of my questioning will be the participation of the President. Because that was not clear. They said ‘ultimately responsible’. Why? The question is why?”

“The President should not suspect any motive here, whether any grudges or any political agenda. As far as I’m concerned, I’m no longer a politician,” said Enrile.

After the court granted him temporary liberty last year, Enrile asked why the Senate did not discuss the committee report on the Mamasapano probe in a plenary session and demanded the reopening of the Senate’s investigation.

Enrile, who is facing graft and plunder charges over allegations he funneled his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations, claimed he received additional information from the family members of the slain SAF troopers and other police officers when he was still incarcerated at the PNP headquarters.

According to the senator, there are questions that need to be asked members of the Executive department and PNP leadership who were involved in the operation.

Poe said the reopening of the Mamasapano probe will be on Monday, January 25, first anniversary of the Mamasapano incident.

Enrile said he has specifically asked that the Senate invite to the hearing Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Presidential Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang, former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, former PNP Officer-in-Charge Leonard Espina, PNP Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the Criminal Investigation Division Group (CIDG), former PNP-SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas, and Chief Supt. Fernando Mendez, acting director of the PNP intelligence group.

“I have no grudge against him (Aquino); he is doing his job. I’m ready to defend myself and I will show him that there is no basis for the charges that they filed against me, but that is beside the point,” Enrile said. “He is free to answer the questions that I will ask, if he wants. I am willing to appear in the hearing and I will be very respectful,” he added.

In the event Malacañang sends Ochoa instead of the President, Enrile said he will ask the executive secretary to provide details of the President’s whereabouts the day the massacre happened.

“I will ask Ochoa, where was the President that day? If you remember there was no incident report on Sunday. There was no news of the incident on Monday; no news of the incident on Tuesday. It was made known… it exploded on a Wednesday. My God!” Enrile said.

“When the lives of the 44 men, soldiers of the republic, die in battle, how come there is no news coming from the Palace or any segment of the government when, in fact, even when the travel of the President to Baguio in a sports car becomes news,” he said.

“If they have nothing to hide, why would they hesitate to reopen the investigation? I’m not going to be personal about this. We are serving the country. People have a right to know what happened. What was the role and decision and actions of the President during those critical days?” Enrile said.

Although Mar Roxas, who was then DILG Secretary, claimed he was not informed of the operation, Enrile said he wants to ask why the DILG secretary was then involved in contacting persons directly involved in the operations.

“Because on that day, he was also involved in contacting. There’s evidence he contacted the Mamasapano officers during the encounter. I want to know where he was at that time and whether he informed the President or he was texting the people in the field.”

Enrile also said there is no need for Poe to inhibit herslf from the hearing even if she is running for president in the upcoming elections. It was Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano who had called for Poe’s inhibition in the reopening of the Mamasapano probe.

“There’s no need for Poe to inhibit. I need a fair and impartial chairwoman in this investigation,” Enrile said.

READY TO COOPERATE

Insisting it has never tried to conceal or rewrite the truth, Malacañang said yesterday it is ready to cooperate with lawmakers inquiring about the Mamasapano operation.

And if President Aquino and some cabinet members have been invited to the Senate inquiry, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said certain procedures in the Constitution about the appearance of these officials from the executive branch must be followed.

From the very start, the government has been open and transparent about the events in Mamasapano, Coloma said in a Palace press briefing. If any lawmaker has prepared questions, the Executive branch is ready to respond even before the opening of the Senate hearing on January 25, he added.

Coloma said Section 22, Article 6, on the Legislative Department of the Constitution states that, “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. 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.”

The same constitutional provision states that interpellations shall not be limited to written questions but may cover related matters related. 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,” it added.

Coloma said the President has not hidden any information about the Mamasapano operation. He said the President divulged his knowledge about the Mamasapano incident on several occasions last year, such as the January 28 and February 8 press conferences in Malacañang, the March 9 interfaith prayer gathering in the Palace, and the March 26 Philippine National Police Academy graduation rites in Cavite.

He said the Mamasapano incident has also been investigated by various government bodies such as the police, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Commission on Human Rights. Even the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Ombudsman have launched their separate investigations, Coloma said.

Asked if the President would attend the Senate inquiry on the Mamasapano incident, Coloma pointed out that the Constitution has provisions on the matter, adding that the President is head of a separate co-equal branch of government. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Charissa M. Luci)

  • Sarah Santos

    Enrile magpahinga ka na lang!!ok!

  • Kimberly Imperyal

    OI tanda wag ka nang papapel kasi wala ka nang binatbat!!!

  • Justine Perez

    Dapat ang matanda na tumahimik na lang!