MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – One step closer to the truth, or at least a semblance of it.
A month and a half after a police operation ended in the death of 65 people, including 44 elite cops, an independent body composed of police officers has finally submitted its report to Philippine National Police (PNP) Officer-in-Charge PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.
In an interview with reporters prior to the submission of the report on Thursday, March 12, PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong said an initial 5 copies will be ready by Thursday afternoon.
The copies were turned over to Espina, followed by a presentation by the BOI. Espina will then submit the report to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who ordered the creation of the BOI.
The first 5 copies will be submitted to the PNP OIC, Roxas, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Office of the Ombudsman.
It remains unclear if the report, or at least its summary, will be released to the public by Thursday, but Magalong said they were “ready” to present it to the public should they get clearance from Roxas.
“[Secretary Roxas] would also like the result of the investigation to be released. Kung kami lang tanungin ninyo, gusto na naming ilabas (If it were up to the BOI, we want it to be released right away),” said Magalong.
Roxas is expected to present the report to President Benigno Aquino III.
Magalong declined to give any details of the report pending clearance from higher authorities.
Among the chapters of the report seen by reporters as the BOI members signed the document are the following:
- Briefings at Malacañang
- First notice of SILG
- Ceasefire efforts
- Command responsibility
- PDG Purisima’s misleading and inaccurate reports
- President as Commander-in-Chief
- Implications on peace pact
- Time on target concept
- Mode of communication and coordination
Up to 100 copies of the exhaustive report will be created, said Magalong. The BOI would have to sign each copy one by one.
Magalong and a team of 6 other police generals, colonels, and a major, prepared which would be, thus far, the most comprehensive investigation of the incident. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) head earlier come out with its own probe that only covered the involvement of their troops.
‘Transparent, truthful’ report
Magalong expressed confidence that the body was able to ferret out the truth regarding the operation, as he brushed aside speculations of a whitewash.
Responding to questions, he said: “Makakatulog kami nang maayos at haharap kami sa mga tao na hindi kami nahihiya. Haharap kami sa family ng SAF at mga namatayan, na at least masabi namin sa kanila na katotohanan ang aming hinangad sa aming imbestigasyon.”
(We can sleep soundly at night and we can face the people without any shame. We will face the families of the SAF, of those who were killed, and at least we can tell them that we aimed for the truth in our investigation.)
He added, “We are confident that it (the report) will enlighten everybody as to what happened.”
Asked whether the President’s statement before evangelical leaders had any impact on the BOI, Magalong said that they did not pay any attention to it. He said they did not feel “any pressure” from anyone while conducting the investigation.
On January 25, 392 troopers from the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) entered barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, to neutralize bomb makers and terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or “Marwan,” and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman fled.
In what was apparently a botched exit plan, members of the 84th and 55th Special Action Companies (SAC) – the striking and main blocking forces – encountered fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its splinter group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and Private Armed Groups (PAGs).
“Oplan Exodus” is the bloodiest one-day operation in PNP history and is the biggest crisis in the Aquino administration. Its effects go far beyond the fields of Mamasapano.
The operation – kept a secret from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – pitted the two forces against each other. Police officials and SAF troopers themselves have questioned why the AFP was unable to send artillery support to the beleaguered SAF, while the AFP argues it did not have enough information the morning of the clash on January 25.
It has also imperilled the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the culmination of years of negotiations between the government and the MILF. The passage of the law would lead to the creation of new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
Aquino has long been criticized for his involvement in the Mamasapano operation, a perception he has tried to downplay in the past weeks.
On Monday, March 9, the same day the BOI was originally set to submit its report, the President told Evangelical leaders in a Malacañang gathering that Napeñas was solely to blame for the carnage in Mamasapano. (READ: Aquino: Napeñas ‘tricked me’ on Mamasapano)
Napeñas, meanwhile, said Aquino should also share responsibility for the bloody operation. Through his lawyer, Napeñas said the trouble began when the President allowed his friend Purisima to be part of the operation despite a standing suspension order.
Purisima, Napeñas and Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez of the PNP Intelligence Group were all present at a briefing for the President at Bahay Pangarap on January 9. Purisima himself was briefed on “Oplan Exodus” ahead of the Bahay Pangarap briefing.
Both Aquino and Purisima were privy to the plans for “Oplan Exodus,” including the possible dates when it would be launched. – Rappler.com