‘Aquino, Purisima, Napeñas liable for Mamasapano’

Bea Cupin
‘Aquino, Purisima, Napeñas liable for Mamasapano’
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago points out: 'In their own admission – and this is an admission against interest which constitutes as strong evidence – there were only 4 people' in the January 9, 2015, briefing for the President

MANILA, Philippines – Not one, but 4. 

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday, February 12, said 4 people are responsible for the death of at least 68 individuals, including 44 elite policemen, during a police operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao. 

Santiago was referring to the 4 officials who were present during a January 9, 2015 briefing for “Oplan Exodus” at Bahay Pangarap, the residence of President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang: The President, then-suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima, then-PNP Special Action Force commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and PNP Intelligence Group chief Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez. 

“In their own admission – and this is an admission against interest which constitutes as strong evidence – there were only 4 people there. So if we were made to choose [who is responsible], we only have the 4,” Santiago said in a press conference help after her interpellation of police and government officials during the Senate’s probe into “Oplan Exodus.” 

During the operation, SAF troopers killed Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan.” But of 73 troopers from the 55th and 84th SAF companies, only 29 came out alive after a day-long battle with fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who call Mamasapano home. 

“In effect all 4 must accept responsibility for the failure. In fact, not just failure but carnage. I am naming President Aquino because I don’t think it serves the public interest to fudge the issue, as if he’s some sacred cow. I don’t think he needs my protection. He can stand for himself,” said Santiago. (READ: SAF operation ‘failure’ from the start)

Cases for the 4 

The senator, however, said that while she wants Aquino to take responsibility for the operation, she is against any moves to oust him through a coup. Earlier during the Senate hearing, Santiago mentioned some “rogue groups” were already meeting to oust the President.  

“I am against the removal of President Aquino through any means that is unconstitutional… therefore my criticism should be taken as surgical operation to determine what should not be done again,” she added.  

Santiago, a constitutional law expert and former Regional Trial Court judge, said the 3 police officials could be placed under “court martial” or sued before civilian courts.

The PNP, as a civilian organization, is not under the jurisdiction of military courts. Instead, police may be sanctioned administratively through the National Police Commission.  

But for Santiago, the trouble for the 3 police officials doesn’t end there. “Under the stature of the Rome Stature of the International Criminal Court, if the official has the rank of colonel or above, including the head of state, then you can be persecuted before an international criminal court if someone files a complaint,” she added.

Aquino, meanwhile, is currently immune from suit but Santiago noted “he loses that immunity when he leaves office in 2016.” 

Asked whether Aquino’s involvement could be a basis for his impeachment, the political veteran said it wasn’t a question of law but “how many votes he has in the chamber.” 

Santiago also bellied Aquino’s claim in a televised address that he did not need to approve the January 25 outright since the PNP had long been pursuing Marwan. “I don’t believe that for a minute, I’m sorry,” she added. (READ: What I wish Aquino said)

During her interpellation, Santiago said she did not believe that the buck stopped with Napeñas. – 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.