Aquino not yet done with explanation on Mamasapano
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III may have been unable to explain his side of the Mamasapano incident to the Board of Inquiry (BOI), but Malacañang said he would continue to air his side to the public.
On Thursday, March 19, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Aquino and his administration would keep making the explanations necessary to help the public fully understand what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao – something he hasn't been able to do as of yet.
“Let’s just say that as this issue continues to be discussed in the public fora, in the course of our continuing dialogues about this issue, the President is still forming his own narrative and it is possible that in the right time – he has forthcoming public engagements after all – he can use these to give additional information,” Coloma said.
Coloma made the statement on the same day that a nationwide poll showed that 8 in 10 Filipinos or 79% believe the explanations of the President on the Mamasapano incident are "insufficient."
It also comes after Police Director Benjamin Magalong, who headed an independent body formed to probe a botched police operation that claimed the lives of 67 people, clarified he was standing by the BOI report that said Aquino was “liable” for “bypassing” the PNP’s chain of command.
Magalong said on Wednesday that the President was “hurt” by the findings, especially because his account of the incident was not included in the report. (READ: BOI chief: Aquino 'hurt' by Mamasapano report)
Magalong and another BOI member met with Aquino in Malacañang on Tuesday night where they had a "cordial" and "no-holds-barred" conversation, where the President clarified parts of the BOI report.
On Thursday, Malacañang conceded the BOI report would stand as public record.
Asked why the President did not just voluntarily submit an affidavit when the probe was still ongoing and before the report's release, Coloma said Aquino respected the independence of the investigating body.
“There’s a principle of separation of powers. There is also a general sense from the public that these fact-finding activities must be independent. That’s why the President also weighed, in the whole course of events, how he would air his side. He used several public fora,” he said.
As examples, Coloma cited the first national address of the President following the January 25 incident on January 28, his speech at the National Day of Mourning on January 30, his second national address on February 6, and his statement at a gathering of religious leaders on March 9.
“We can see that in every chance, the President tried to tell the public what he knows,” he said.
Of the 4 instances Coloma cited, only the first was open to a question and answer with media.
Support for Aquino
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.
Aside from the BOI report, a separate Senate probe on the incident also found Aquino "ultimately responsible" for the operation. The President was also not called in to air his side in that investigation.
On the Pulse Asia survey results, Coloma gave assurances the government would continue explaining to the people. “It is a good sign from our people that they truly want information and the President and government will listen to that and work to bring them whatever important information they want to know.”
But Coloma also called attention to the results in the same survey, that said 42% of Filipinos don’t want Aquino to resign.
“It is a clear sentiment of our people, the bosses, that majority of them believe in his leadership and want him to finish his term and fulfill his duty; and because of that the President and the administration are showing hard work, determination and diligence to ensure the continued trust and support of the people,” he said.
Coloma said that the President will cooperate in another probe if asked, this time by the House of Representatives, that will resume in April. But this is through the provision of information and resource persons from the government.
"Of course we are ready to help them find additional information. If the presence of resource persons from government will be asked for again, these are just requests. Even in the past processes, the government fully cooperated because we are all stakeholders in the quest for truth and justice," he said. – Rappler.com