Aquino has no regrets over Purisima’s role in Mamasapano

Natashya Gutierrez
Aquino has no regrets over Purisima’s role in Mamasapano
Malacañang says President Benigno Aquino III maintains his position on why he decided to tap the then suspended top cop in a major police operation

MANILA, Philippines – Even after two investigative reports scored him for including a suspended police chief in a major operation, President Benigno Aquino III has not expressed any regrets over the decision and his repeated defense of former National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte made the statement in a news briefing on Wednesday, March 18, when asked if the President has any regrets over including Purisima in Oplan Exodus, and coming to his defense all the time.

“Well, first of all, not that he has expressed [any regrets], on both counts,” Valte said.

She said the President has maintained his position on why he decided to continue communicating with Purisima on the Mamasapano operation despite the police official’s standing suspension order.

“Remember that at a point the instructions were given, the President had no reason to suspect that his orders would not be carried out,” Valte said.

She also reiterated why Aquino chose to communicate with Purisima.

“You know the President’s thoughts at this point are these: what you do forget, again, is that the former chief PNP prior to his suspension was involved in the previous operations. And as such, he had a good knowledge of the challenges, the factors that have to be taken when planning these operations and so on,” she explained.

Valte also emphasized that despite consulting with Purisima, the President “was aware of the hierarchy in the PNP, which was why he gave explicit instructions that the OIC (Officer in Charge) be informed and briefed – not just informed, but briefed about the operations.”

The President has close ties to Purisima, whom he appointed as PNP chief in 2012. Aquino has been accused of protecting Purisima who also served in the Presidential Security Group under the late president Corazon Aquino, mother of the President.  (READ: Aquino, Purisima and the past that binds them)

Under strong pressure, Aquino finally let go of Purisima two weeks after the deadly operation.

Reports agree 

On January 25, some 392 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos entered Mamasapano town, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to execute Oplan Exodus, an operation to arrest top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman

The operation resulted in a bloody clash between SAF troopers and rebel forces that claimed at least 67 lives, including 44 SAF troopers. The MILF blamed this on the SAF team’s failure to coordinate with them, as provided in its ceasefire agreement with the government on operations in known MILF territories. 

It was later revelead that Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II – whose department oversees the PNP – and PNP OIC Leonardo Espina were not informed of the operation until it was already ongoing. Malacañang maintains the President asked Purisima to inform the two, and coordinate with the military for back-up before the operation – an order that was not followed.

The Senate report on the Mamsapano incident released Monday, March 16, said that Aquino “must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions” by Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus.

Senator Grace Poe, head of the committee that led the probe, added: “It is beyond doubt that the President was fully aware that PDG Purisima was preventively suspended by the Ombudsman on 4 December 2014, and that PDDG (Leonardo) Espina was designated Officer-in-Charge of the PNP on 12 December 2014.” (READ: Text messages show Aquino knew details)

The police Board of Inquiry (BOI) report on the incident also said Aquino committed lapses in judgment when he “allowed the participation of the suspended Chief Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman,” and “bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command.”

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