MANILA, Philippines – Resigned police chief Alan Purisima’s refusal to fully cooperate with agencies investigating the Mamasapano clash only adds to doubts about how the mission was handled.
Senate public order committee chairperson Grace Poe criticized Purisima’s decision not to allow Smart Communications to release a log of the cellphone numbers he texted on the day of the January 25 encounter, and to turn over his mobile phone to the police Board of Inquiry (BOI) for forensic exams.
Poe said it was obvious from Purisima’s refusal to grant an interview to the BOI that he was hiding something. The BOI said Purisima only submitted an affidavit but rejected its requests for an interview.
“Mas lalong lumalaki ang duda ’pag merong mga hindi nakikipagkaisa para ma’bigay ang tunay na nangyayari doon sa nalaman nila,” Poe said on Monday, March 9. (The doubt only grows when there is non-cooperation in relating what truly happened based on his knowledge.)
“Ang ’di pagbibigay ng kabuuang testimonya sa BOI o phone records, kahit wala kang duda sana, mas lalo kang magdududa. Kung wala kang ’tinatago, ano ang ’kinatatakot nila?”
(The refusal to give full testimony before the BOI or phone records, even if you had no doubt, all the more you will doubt. If you are not hiding something, then what are you afraid of?)
Purisima only submitted to the Senate a document containing a transcript of his text messages with his close friend, President Benigno Aquino III, on January 25. The general is at the center of controversy for directing the mission even while on suspension over corruption charges. The President, too, drew flak for allegedly allowing Purisima to play a role in the operation.
Upon the request of Senator Loren Legarda, Poe’s committee issued a subpoena for telecommunications firm Smart to submit a copy of the text messages Purisima sent and received on January 25. Yet Smart said it did not have a record of the actual messages, and could only give a list of the numbers Purisima texted. The former police chief refused to waive his privacy even on the log of numbers.
Poe said that Purisima’s decision leaves the Senate with no choice but to recommend to the courts to pursue getting the phone records.
“Our hands are tied because we cannot force him to give a testimony if he invokes privacy. This is the problem. Even if we subpoena the phone records, [Smart] will always have the recourse to ask the courts to intervene. Even if we get the text messages through equipment other people are recommending, will we able to release that? We cannot release that because the court might tell us we have no authorization from the actual subscriber,” Poe said.
In the 5 Senate hearings on the clash, security officials revealed that they were communicating primarily via text message on the police mission to arrest terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The operation turned into a debacle when Moro rebels and armed groups blocked the elite cops from withdrawing, and engaged them in a daylong firefight.
The incident killed 44 elite cops, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and at least 3 civilians. It has also endangered the government’s peace process with the MILF. The public outrage and fallout from the clash created the biggest controversy to hit the Aquino administration.
Why did BOI change sched?
Poe and opposition Senator JV Ejercito also questioned the BOI’s announcement delaying for the 3rd time its submission of its findings about the Mamasapano clash. The board was supposed to submit to the Senate its report on Monday, but again asked for an extension until Thursday.
BOI head and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong said Monday that his group does not want to rush the findings, and “sacrifice our credibility and our integrity.”
Poe said she understood Magalong’s explanation, but questioned why the group initially committed to submit the report on Friday last week or Monday to begin with.
“Ano ang nangyari? Ano ang nalaman nila noong weekend na nagpalit ang kanilang isip na isumite nang 3 araw? Kung umpisa pa lang, sinabi nilang matatagalan sapagkat ang daming impormasyon na kailangang pag-aralan, maiintindihan ko ’yun subalit bakit pumasok bandang huli na lang?”
(What happened? What did they discover over the weekend that changed their mind to submit this after another 3 days? If they said this from the start that the report would be delayed because of information they have to study, I will understand that, but how come they are only saying this towards the end?)
Ejercito echoed her view. “There will be doubts about the report, that it is being sanitized.”
“It’s like they are shielding the President. There is an attempt to shield because in the last hearing, the officials had different answers. This does not help,” Ejercito added.
Senate report won’t have MILF findings
Poe reiterated that the Senate will release its own report on the clash next week, even if the BOI findings are delayed. She said the chamber gathered enough information to produce its own conclusions anyway.
The senator said though that the report will not incorporate the investigation of the MILF because the rebel group made no commitment to submit its own findings. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal attended the Senate hearings to respond to senators’ questions.
The police accused the MILF of an “overkill” in the encounter, after the release of a video and a medico-legal report showing that some wounded commandos were finished off.
“Nakakalungkot. Sana ipinakita nila na mayroon din silang tiwala sa aming pagkalap ng ebidensya. Pero sa puntong ito, ’di namin kakailanganin ito. Kung saka-sakali sana, mas maganda para naman ang panig nila ay marinig din namin, pero ’di nila ’binibigay ang pagkakataon na ’yun,” said Poe.
(It is sad. I hope they also showed their trust in our investigation. But at this point, we don’t need their report. If ever, it would have been better so we can hear their side but they did not give us that opportunity.)
The MILF said over the weekend it will only give an executive summary of its report to the Philippine government.
The group though agreed to meet with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Department of Justice’s fact-finding panel in Maguindanao on Tuesday for a “dialogue” on the encounter. – Rappler.com