MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Police Chief Inspector Reynaldo Ariño, commander of the 5th Special Action Battalion, confirmed Wednesday, February 11, that the armed officer shot twice in a purported video of the Mamasapano clash circulating online is a member of the Special Action Force.
“Yes, it’s a SAF officer assigned in the 55th company,” Ariño told the joint House public order and peace committee hearing on the deadly clash.
As agreed upon by congressmen, Ariño did not identify who the SAF trooper was.
The first few minutes of the video showed a SAF officer on the ground, still moving, when another armed individual shot him twice at close range.
During the hearing, lawmakers engaged in a heated argument on whether to show the video or not.
(Rappler is using select screenshots of the viral video confirmed by SAF officials as authentic. We are doing so out of respect for the dead men and their families. As a matter of editorial policy, we do not show video depicting moment of death. – Editors)
Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat brought up the existence of the video after an emotional OIC Philippine National Police Director General Leonardo Espina revealed in the hearing that the medico-legal report of fallen SAF members showed they were shot in close range.
Cebu Representative Gwen Garcia issued a motion to show the video during the hearing, which is being aired live over several television states and news websites.
Maguindanao Representative Bai Sandra Sema blocked the motion as she shed tears.
“We are here in Manila. Most of the people here have not experienced war. It’s easy to call for war,” Sema said.
“May I ask for reconsideration that the video not be shown?” she added.
Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles argued the video should be shown so lawmakers can “ask the right questions.”
Another Mindanao lawmaker issued a counter-argument. Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong said the focus of the discussions should be how to push the peace process forward, and showing the video would not help.
Sulu Representative Tupay Loong, a former Moro National Liberation Front combatant, said the committee should not highlight one side of the conflict alone.
“If you are crying for justice for the SAF, we are also crying for justice for the civilians killed,” Loong said.
Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice also argued against showing the video, saying that it has yet to be verified.
While the argument was ongoing, a female representative was heard shouting from the background.
In the end, the chairperson, Negros Occidental Representative Jeffrey Ferrer, ruled that the video would not be shown. Instead, the police was asked to confirm the authenticity of the video.
Police Director Benjamin Magalong, chair of the Board of Inquiry, begged off from answering the question due to the ongoing investigation.
“I would not deny that I was able to watch the video yesterday. But as head of the BOI, with all due respect, I would rather refrain from giving out any comment,” Magalong said.
Sacked PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas said the video was also sent to him, but he has yet to view it. Napeñas instead asked Ariño to confirm who the personnel shown in the first part of the video was.
Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, said of the video: “No one can really prove what specific group did that if ever it is true. That will be very difficult. Who will prove if it is genuine or not? Who is the source?”
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has yet to issue a comment.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima agreed it was an “overkill” after watching a 6-minute video clip purportedly showing the execution of the SAF commandos.
She immediately ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to validate the video. If proven authentic, it can used as evidence against those who were involved in the clash.
The NBI ’s cybercrime division has the capability to trace the source of the video, and, eventually, the gunman and the victim shown in it, she said.
“These are really barbaric acts. We shouldn’t let those responsible for this to get away…. Even if there is war, or even if there is armed conflict, there are rules of conduct, war conduct,” De Lima said in a mix of English and Filipino. – with a report from Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com