Progressive lawmakers said there is even more urgent need to resume the Congressional investigation into the Mamasapano clash, as the role of President Aquino and the US government becomes more apparent in the report by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) of the Philippine National Police.
The lawmakers feared a “cover-up,” if questions are left unanswered, particularly, on the inconsistencies in statements of the President and the US government.
“We are again calling on the House leadership to immediately resume the Congress probe on Mamasapano to further expose the truth because the BOI report is a cover-up and the Filipino people want the whole truth,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Colmenares said the BOI “stopped short” of probing Aquino: “While the BOI report contains facts that are already disclosed to the public, it fails to put the main burden of accountability on the most responsible for the operation who is Pres. Aquino himself.”
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the BOI itself admitted “certain limitations” and the Congress leadership cannot say that it had answered all questions about Oplan Exodus.
Ridon said the House committee “can review the BOI report’s limitations and use such as a start-off point for a more informed and more exhaustive House probe.”
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmie de Jesus said House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and the majority bloc must keep their word that the joint investigation by the Committees of Public Order and Safety, and Peace and Reconciliation would resume after the submission of the BOI report.
De Jesus said many women civic leaders felt that “the BOI report is very limited, since it covered operational questions mostly within the PNP itself.”
De Jesus said there are now at least 109 signatories to the petition by the minority bloc to resume the Mamasapano investigation, which was halted after one hearing. Relatives of the SAF 44 also gave commitment to participate in the hearing.
The BOI report was submitted to Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on March 12, and was made public on March 13.
Chain of command broken
In its executive summary, the BOI report said President Aquino, then suspended PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, and then Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas violated the chain of command of the PNP.
Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas “kept the information to themselves, and deliberately failed to inform” Secretary Roxas and acting PNP chief Director General Leonardo Espina,” the report said.
“The President allowed the participation of the suspended chief of the Philippine National Police (CPNP) Police Director General Alan Purisima in the planning and execution of the Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman,” said the report.
The report was more extensive on the planning and conduct of the operation, which put the weight of accountability on sacked SAF chief Napeñas.
The BOI recommended further investigation into the Mamasapano operation “to determine the criminal and/or administrative liabilities of relevant government officials, the MILF and other individuals.”
Ridon said: “The search for truth and accountability for the victims of the Mamasapano clash is far from over. The BOI report is but a starting point for more in-depth investigations.”
The Makabayan bloc lawmakers said US officials lied when they denied any role in the operation aside from medical evacuation.
The BOI report said there were no US military personnel involved in the combat operation, but they “supported the operation by providing technical support to enhance monitoring of the troops on the ground.”
The BOI report said SAF official Superintendent Michael John Mangahis, who was part of the operation, “revealed that six American nationals were at the Tactical Command Post in Shariff Aguak starting on the eve of the operations to provide real-time information to the SAF troops.”
The US was also involved in the intelligence operation and medical evacuation, said the report.
“Kurt Hoyer, the Press Attache and spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, was lying through his teeth when he claimed that US troops were not involved in the operations last January 25 to get high-value targets Malaysian Zulkifli bin HIr aka Marwan and Abu Sayaff leader Abdulbasit Usman of the Abu Sayaff,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“It is clear now that it was pure and unadulterated lie,” Zarate said.
The US embassy claimed that the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) only responded to assist in the medical evacuation of the dead upon the request of the AFP.
“It appears that our own Foreign Affairs department was also kept out of the loop as it immediately supported the denial statement of the US Embassy. Or, it was very much aware of such interventionist acts but it opted to cover it up, which is even worse,” said Zarate.
Ridon even said the DFA officials who testified in the Senate probe and denied US involvement in the operation “should be charged with perjury.”
“From what we’ve seen so far from the BOI report, there are indeed certain questions left unanswered, particularly the President’s activities before, during, and after the operation,” Ridon said. Aquino and Purisima both rejected the BOI’s request for an interview. Ridon said Aquino “is clearly hiding something even from the BOI.”
Ridon said the BOI noted the “conflicting statements” by the President on Purisima’s role in the operation.
“The BOI itself noted the discrepancies in the President’s public statements. Essentially, even the BOI cannot hide the fact that Aquino was caught lying in his statements,” Ridon said.
Aquino, in the Q&A part after his first statement on the Mamasapano operation in a national telecast on Jan. 28, said that after Purisima was suspended, he was no longer involved and was only helping him with “jargon” about the operation.
During the Senate investigation, Purisima admitted that he was accountable for being involved in the operation, in spite of his suspension.
The House of Representatives will be on recess on March 20, but Ridon said the House can still hold panel hearings.
De Jesus said on March 16, women activists will picket the gates of Congress to pressure the House leadership to resume its investigation on the Mamasapano clash. (bulatlat.com)
Guest Columnist: DEE AYROSO