Political foes ‘taking advantage’ of Mamasapano probe – Aquino

Bea Cupin
Political foes ‘taking advantage’ of Mamasapano probe – Aquino
'Siguro sinusubukan nilang samantalahin na naman ‘yung pagkakataon,' says President Benigno Aquino III of his political rivals and the Mamasapano case

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III could barely hide his disdain over the re-opening of the Senate’s probe into a bloody police operation that claimed the lives of more than 60, including 44 elite cops.

Well, alam naman natin malapit na ‘yung campaign period. Sa ating mga katunggali nakita nila na [ang Mamasapano] ‘yung parang pinakamabigat na dagok sa akin simula nang ako’y namahala. Siguro sinusubukan nilang samantalahin na naman ‘yung pagkakataon,” Aquino said on Friday, January 8, on the sidelines of the inauguration of a new power plant in Davao City.

(We know that the campaign period is near. Our rivals see Mamasapano as one of the biggest crises to hit me since I started my term. Maybe they’re trying to take advantage of the situation.)

Earlier this week, the Senate announced it would be resuming its probe into the bloody “Oplan Exodus”, a police operation that targeted terrorists wanted by both the Philippines and the United States in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

All hell broke loose as the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Special Action Force (SAF) clashed with Muslim rebels, trapped in a firefight that lasted hours.

The hearing is set on January 25, 2016, exactly a year after the bloody clash.

The aftermath of the Mamasapano clash was also one of the most difficult for the President. Aquino’s approval ratings dipped to their lowest. (READ: President Aquino and the ghosts of Mamasapano)

The President was also criticized for supposedly being indifferent toward survivors and the families of those slain. He was likewise hit for his supposed role in the operation and for allowing his friend, then PNP chief Alan Purisima, to play a part in the operation despite his suspension over a graft case.

Aquino could not help but take the re-opening of the probe personally, pointing out that January 25 also happens to be the birthday of his mother, the late president Corazon Aquino.

Alam niyo January 25 kasi birthday ng nanay ko, first year anniversary ‘nung Mamasapano, para bang dinidiin nilang kailangan pahirapan ka dito. Ngayon, may kasabihan nga, nakita natin sa pagtuturo ng aking simbahang kinabibilangan, sa Bibliya, ‘The truth shall set us all free,’” he added.

(January 25 is my mother’s birthday, the first anniversary of Mamasapano, it’s like they want to make sure that it will be a difficult day for me. But there’s a saying in the Bible, “The truth shall set us all free.”)

Who’s behind this? 

Many of the personalities connected to the incident and the probe are now candidates in 2016. The Senate sub-committee is headed by presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe. At least 3 vice presidential bets – Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr – also took part in the probe last year.

Former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas is now running for senator under Vice President Jejomar Binay’s party while former interior chief Manuel Roxas II is the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s standard-bearer.

So palagay ko sa lahat ng mga pangyayari, nakikita natin malaking bagay ‘yung pulitika. Baka huwag nating kalimutan ‘yung pasimuno nito, siguro maiintindihan natin, malamang may sama ng loob sa aking administrasyon,” said Aquino, alluding to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, whose request prompted the re-opening of the probe.

(In all that’s happening, it’s clear that politics plays a huge role. Let’s not forget who initiated this and we’ll understand. Likely, he or she has a grudge to bear against my administration.)

Enrile was detained at the PNP General Hospital when the hearings took place, for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Also confined at the same hospital at that time were the SAF troopers who survived the clash.

Flawed report?

In the aftermath of the clash, several bodies launched probes into the controversial operation – the PNP’s Board of Inquiry, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and eventually, the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Almost a year later, the Senate committee’s draft report has yet to reach the plenary despite getting the signatures of almost all senators – a curiosity Aquino pointed out.

Magandang pagkakataon ito para makumpleto natin ‘yung picture, ‘yung nangyari sa Mamasapano, mailagay na tama ‘yung record (It’s a chance to complete the picture of what happened in Mamasapano, to put the record straight),” he said.

The Senate’s draft report pinned the blame on Aquino, insisting that he “must bear responsibility.”

Recalling his time in Congress, Aquino said that “one of the biggest insults” for a Congressional committee head is for a committee report to be re-committed or returned for revisions.

Dahil ang paliwanag sa akin ng nakakatanda sa akin doon sa Senado, para bang hindi tama ang ginawa niyo kaya ibinabalik sa inyo (I was told by my elders that in the Senate, it would appear like what you did was not correct that’s why it’s being returned to you),” he said.

Poe has said that she stands by the findings of the draft committee report even if the probe is re-opened. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.