MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday, September 8, that the government is looking into an “alternative version” of the Mamasapano incident that could hold a more than 100 people accountable.
“There is over a hundred, I think, that will be indicted over this,” Aquino said in a Q&A with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, when asked if he has reached closure on the bloody police operation that claimed the lives of more than 60 Filipinos.
In the interview aired live on state-run PTV4, Aquino said the alternative account of what happened on the fateful day of January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, is “undergoing very intense scrutiny.”
“There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny. We are looking for witnesses that will prove or disprove certain observations,” Aquino said, noting that authorities faced difficulty in getting witnesses to talk.
Aquino admitted that he still has a number of questions despite the various investigations that have been conducted to ferret out the “complete truth” behind the tragedy.
The report by the National Bureau of Investigation and National Prosecution Service Special Investigation Team (NBI-NPS SIT) was the first report to recommend charges and pinpoint suspects based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses.
It recommended that some 90 fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs) be charged for direct assault with murder and theft for their supposed actions in the cornfields of Mamasapano.
The report of the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI) implicated resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima for acting “without authority” before and during the operation that targetted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman. It led to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, 18 Moro rebels, and 5 civilians.
The report also said Aquino bypassed the chain of command in the PNP when he allowed Purisima to take part in the operation even after his suspension.
In July, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the recommendation of the special panel of field investigators to initiate administrative adjudication and preliminary investigation against Purisima, former PNP Special Action Forces chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and 9 other police officers in relation to the Mamasapano carnage.
The special panel absolved Aquino of any criminal liability. (READ: Purisima, ex-SAF chief face criminal raps over Mamasapano)
Investigations were also conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the MILF, the International Monitoring Team, and the Senate and House committees.
The Mamasapano incident was one of the biggest challenges faced by the Aquino administration. It pulled down the President’s approval ratings to an all-time low in March, but he managed to bounce back beginning June. – Rappler.com