Aguirre: Commission should probe Aquino liability in Mamasapano

Lian Buan
The justice secretary says former president Aquino should submit his phone records to the commission that President Duterte will be creating

ULTIMATELY AQUINO'S FAULT. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II says former President Benigno Aquino III should have made sure that his orders to coordinate with the AFP were followed. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Thursday, January 26, that former president Benigno Aquino III still has a lot of explaining to do over his alleged liability in the Mamasapano clash in January 2015 that killed 67 people, including 44 elite cops from the Special Action Force (SAF).

Aguirre said Aquino should submit his mobile phone for investigation, claiming texts and calls on the eve of the clash could prove that he was ultimately the most accountable for the botched police operation.

“Ano ba ‘yung ginawa niyang nakikipag-text siya kay General Purisima, nagbibigay siya ng order na kung ano nang nangyayari kay Marwan, ano na ang nangyayari kay Usman, ‘yan ay ang ibig sabihin niyan ay on top of the situation siya. Alam niya kung ano ang nangyayari,” Aguirre said.

(What was he doing texting General (Alan) Purisima? He was giving orders about what was happening with Marwan, or what was happening with Usman, meaning he was on top of the situation. He knew what was happening.)

Aguirre said Aquino should have made sure that then SAF director Getulio Napeñas would follow his order and coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ahead of the operations.

“Walang viniolate si General Napeñas, siya ang nagkulang, kung gusto niyang, sinabi niyang, ang sinabi kasi noon, okay you coordinate with the military. Eh sinabi ni Napeñas, Mr. President ang military ay compromised na, so ang dapat po diyan ay time on target lamang. Anong ginawa niya? Wala siyang sinabi, silent siya, ang dapat sana ang sinabi niya kay General Napeñas, hindi hindi, gusto ko talaga i-coordinate mo ‘yan, silent siya doon, ano ibig sabihin ng silence? Silence means acquiescence,” Aguirre said.

(Napeñas did not violate anything, it was (Aquino’s) shortcoming. When Napeñas told him that the military was compromised and that coordination should only be on a time-on-target-basis, Aquino should have said “No, no, I insist that you coordinate.” He was silent, and what does silence mean? Silence means acquiescence.)

Aquino released a statement on Thursday morning saying his only fault was that he trusted Napeñas to never lie to him. Aquino said Napeñas gave him the affirmative answer when he told the police director to coordinate with the military ahead of the operations. On the contrary, Napeñas only gave the military the heads up on a “time on target” basis, meaning when the operations were already underway. (READ: Noynoy Aquino tells Duterte: Mamasapano not my fault)

“Pinagkatiwalaan ko ang isang two-star police officer, na ako pa mismo ang nag-promote. Naniwala akong itong graduate ng PMA [Philippine Military Academy] ay tatalima sa values ng paaralan na ‘Courage, Integrity, Loyalty,'” Aquino said.

(I trusted a two-star police officer whom I personally promoted. I believed that this PMA graduate will follow the school’s values of courage, integrity, loyalty.) 

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the creation of a truth commission to reinvestigate the Mamasapano clash. And while Aguirre said he doesn’t have details of the commission yet, he said it will likely address unanswered questions in the past investigations into the incident.

“Sinabi na ng BOI, sinabi rin ng Senate report ni Grace Poe na siya ang may kasalanan. Nagtataka lang ako kung bakit parang naabsuwelto kaagad ‘yan,” said the Justice Secretary. (The BOI already said he was liable, Grace Poe’s Senate report also said the same. I wonder why he was absolved so quickly.)

The Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry and a Senate investigation earlier said Aquino was responsible for the operation, but the Ombudsman’s special panel of prosecutors initially cleared the former president of criminal liability. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said separate complaints against Aquino over the Mamasapano clash are still undergoing preliminary investigation.

Aguirre said Duterte’s truth commission should also look into allegations that former peace adviser Teresita Deles discouraged the deployment of military troops to protect the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Napakaraming hindi nasasagot diyan, kaya noon pa man, despite the Senate investigation, hindi magkakaroon ng closure diyan. Bakit hindi ginamit ‘yung artillery support nung mga 8 or 9 in the morning of January 25 samantalang lahat ng kondisyones na gamitin ay nandun na? Ikalawa, ano ang ginawa ng OPAPP, nina Ging Deles at ng kanyang asawa? Bakit hindi nila napatigil diyan, sila ba ang nagpigil para gamitin ang artillery?” Aguirre said.

(There are so many questions left unanswered that’s why there is no closure yet despite there being a Senate investigation. Why wasn’t the artillery suppport used at 8 or 9 in the morning of January 25, when all the conditions to use it were already set? Secondly, what was the role of OPAPP, of Ging Deles and her husband? Did they stop the use of artillery?)

Aquino, in his statement, said Deles did not participate at all in the operation, adding that it was someone from the MILF who first alerted the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the ongoing clash. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.