Mamasapano probe: Will Aquino speak to police investigators?
MANILA, Philippines – Will President Benigno Aquino III narrate the extent of his involvement in a bloody police operation that claimed the lives of 65, including 44 elite cops?
Police Director Benjamin Magalong on Monday, March 9, admitted the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) reached out to the President in hopes of getting his side of the story, but said Aquino has yet to respond.
The BOI is a group formed under the orders of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding “Oplan Exodus,” a January 25 operation that saw 392 members of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) enter known Muslim rebel territory to neutralize bomb makers and terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.
“Gumawa kami ng paraan para i-express sa kanya ang aming intention na ma-interview siya,” Magalong said in a Monday press conference at Camp Crame. The police general said it was Roxas who acted as their bridge to the President. (We expressed to the President our intention of interviewing him.)
But as of Monday, March 9, or almost 44 days after the bloody operation, the BOI has yet to receive word from the President. “We have expressed our intention, we have no received any feedback at the moment,” said Magalong.
No access to phones, too
The Mamasapano clash involves 73 members of the SAF and fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups. It’s the bloodiest one-day operation in PNP history and the worst crisis to hit the Aquino administration so far.
Aquino has been criticized for his supposed involvement in the operation, his perceived lack of empathy towards the victims of the clash, and for allowing his friend, resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, to play a key role in the operation despite a standing suspension order.
Purisima himself declined to be interviewed by the BOI but gave a sworn affidavit. Magalong added Purisima sent his aide de camp to be interviewed by the BOI.
The former PNP chief, who resigned in the wake of harsh criticisms after Mamasapano, also declined to turn over his cellular phone alongisde other key personalities such as officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Had the BOI been allowed access to their cellular phones, they would have been able to perform forensic exams on the units, which would have shown call and text message records. Purisima had earlier submitted to the BOI and the Senate a transcript of his text conversation with the President on the day of the operation.
In contrast, relieved SAF commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas and other SAF officers, allowed the BOI access to their phones.
The BOI also failed to conduct interviews with AFP officials and personalities from the MILF during their visit to Mamasapano and nearby Cotabato.
Magalong said the BOI will “spell out our limitations” so that the public would get a better understanding of the report. Still, the police general assured the public they would “not sacrifice the integrity, not only of the members of the BOI, but of the PNP.”
Magalong was supposed to submit on Monday, March 9, the BOI’s findings to PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina but he asked for a 3-day extension. – Rappler.com