Purisima cites ‘executive privilege’ on Aquino role

Angela Casauay
Purisima cites ‘executive privilege’ on Aquino role
Lawmakers say Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr should be invited to the House hearing

MANILA, Philippines – What was the exact role of President Benigno Aquino III in “Oplan Exodus?” What was his role in previous operations targeting Zulkifli Bin Hir, better known as Marwan?

Three hearings into the deadly clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao – one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate, the answer to these questions have yet to be given.

Resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima invoked executive privilege when asked about Aquino’s role. (READ: What I wish Aquino said as president)

“I still need clearance to respond to your question regarding my communication with the President,” Purisima said. 

Executive privilege is the principle that members of the executive branch may not be forced to disclose certain communication that could affect government operations or processes.

Purisima was answering questions from Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon who wanted Purisima to provide details on how the President was involved in all the planned operations against Marwan. 

Ridon said that “questions” persist on the level of Aquino’s involvement in “Oplan Exodus,” such as: 

  • Where exactly were the President and Purisima during the January 25 operation? 
  • What was the role of the United States in the operation? 

Aquino has denied giving a direct go-signal for the January 25 operation in Mamasapano but admitted he was aware of an ongoing operation against Marwan. 

Police Special Action Force Chief Getulio Napeñas earlier said he briefed Aquino and Purisima in the President’s official residence in Bahay Pangarap on January 9, 2015, to give him a “mission update” and to discuss “the new concept of operations” that would eventually be dubbed “Oplan Exodus.”

After that meeting, Napeñas said Purisima, who was already serving a 6-month suspension at the time, told him to notify acting PNP Director General Leonardo Espina, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang only at “time on target.”

On Wednesday, Napeñas once again denied that the President gave a direct order for the operations. 

“People are suspecting I am withholding some information. People want me to say the President gave me express instructions. I once again categorically state the President never game me such instructions since this project was an ongoing operation,” he said.  

“Had it been the opposite, I would have no qualms to say the truth as it would be favorable to me,” he added. 

Misamis Occidental Representative Henry Oaminal said Purisima cannot invoke executive privilege because the concept only covers the President. 

Besides, Purisima was also suspended during the time of the operations, said ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio. 

Call Ochoa

The chairpersons of the joint House probe, Negros Occidental Representative Jeffrey Ferrer, chair of the House committee on public order, and Basilan Representative Jim Hataman-Salliman, chair of the House committee on peace, in the end ruled that Purisima should be given the chance to consult with the President before answering the question. 

Ridon proposed that Aquino’s alter-ego, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr be invited to the hearing. Ochoa was invited to the Senate hearings on Monday, February 9, and Tuesday, February 10, but he did not attend. 

Close to 400 elite cops entered the town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 to arrest terrorists Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. They were able to neutralize Marwan but Usman was able to escape. 

Combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other private armed groups surrounded them on their way out of the area, resulting in a gun fight that killed 44 Special Action Force Troopers, 18 MILF members and at least 7 civilians. 

The MILF signed a peace deal with the government in March 2014 – the basis of a proposed law for a new autonomous government in Mindanao. The passage of the measure is now in jeopardy following the Mamasapano clash. – Rappler.com

 

 

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