Poe on Mamasapano probe: Someone lied

Bea Cupin
Poe on Mamasapano probe: Someone lied
Presidential bet Grace Poe reassures the public that she won't allow grandstanding when the probe re-opens

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday, January 13, said one of the resource persons during last year’s Senate probe into a bloody police operation “was not honest” during his or her testimony behind closed doors.

The senator, however, did not identify the person.

Dun sa aming mga naging executive session, wala naman akong nakitang dapat pang itago. Kung meron man, magpapatunay nga… May isa kaming resource person na hindi naging tapat sa maraming mga pananalita n’ya,” said Poe during an interview on Ted Failon’s “Failon Ngayon” on Wednesday, January 13.

(I don’t think there’s a need to hide what was said during our executive sessions. If there is something, it will prove that… there’s one resource person who was not honest in many things he said.)

Poe headed and will head again a Senate committee’s probe into “Oplan Exodus,” a controversial January 25, 2015 police operation that claimed the lives of more than 60, including 44 elite cops in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

One year later, the Senate will re-open its probe upon Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s request, citing “personal knowledge” and “new evidence.” (READ: Enrile on Mamasapano: Did Aquino do enough to save SAF?)

The probe is scheduled on January 25, exactly a year after the clash but Poe said it might be moved since the Philippine National Police (PNP) has a planned event that day to remember its fallen comrades.

A PNP official earlier told Rappler that the police force’s leadership requested that the probe be moved to January 27. The PNP will also be celebrating their founding anniversary on January 25. 

Failon asked Poe about Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s call to reveal the contents of an executive or closed-door session with then PNP Special Action Force (SAF) chief retired Director Getulio Napeñas.

The Senate held at least 5 executive sessions with police and military officials during the probe, owing to the sensitivity of some issues.

Poe said she sees no problem in revealing the contents of the closed-door sessions, but emphasized that it still needs to be voted upon by the Senate.

Exodus was a top-secret operation against terrorists wanted by both the Philippines and the United States. Although SAF troopers were able to kill one of the targets, Malaysian bomb maker Zulfili bin Hir (alias Marwan), the operation ended as one of the bloodiest in PNP history.

In the aftermath, President Benigno Aquino III saw his ratings dip to their lowest, amid criticism over his involvement and perceived lack of empathy for the dead. The operation also prompted heated debate over the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the product of a peace deal between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

MILF fighters and members were among those who exchanged bullets with the PNP SAF in Mamasapano.

Poe had vowed to keep the probe free from grandstanding, as political opponents and observers accuse the Senate of using it for political gain.

Ngayon, sa ating mga kababayan naman na nagsasabi na pulitika at ano, ito po ay trabaho namin. Ngayon kayo naman po ang huhusga sa aming pagtatanong at sa aking pagpe-preside kung ito ba ay ginawang grandstanding o kung ano pa man,” she said.

(For our countrymen who are saying this is just for politics… this is our job. Now you’ll be able to judge us based on how we ask and how I preside if it’s being used for grandstanding or whatever else.)

The senator is seeking the presidency in 2016 as an independent candidate. Several senators, many of whom where vocal in the 2015 probe, are also seeking higher posts in 2016.

Napeñas is running for senator under the party of opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay.

At the same time, the senator said she would hold accountable resource persons who failed to reveal information during the probe then and only chose to do so now.

Sinasabi ko rin sa mga dadalo na kapag nalaman namin na hindi ninyo sinabi sa amin ang mga impormasyon na ‘yan noon na tinatanong namin sa inyo, meron din kayong pananagutan sa batas. Sapagkat, noon pa man na nag-executive session na kami, hindi ninyo pinagtapat ‘yan. E, bakit ngayon lang? Ayun po ang ating sasabihin,” she added.

(I’ve been telling those who will attend that if we find out that you did not give the information we asked of you then, you’ll be held accountable under the law. Because when we held executive sessions then, why didn’t you choose to reveal that? Why only now? That’s what I’ll tell them.) – 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.