Aquino okays release of SMS transcript to Senate
MANILA, Philippines – Over two weeks after a request from the Senate for the text conversation between the President and resigned police chief Alan Purisima regarding the Mamasapano incident, President Benigno Aquino III finally agreed to release a transcript.
“This is in keeping with upholding the dignity of the office and maintaining the principle of separation of powers and respect for a co-equal branch of government,” a statement from Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte released on Friday, March 20, said.
The statement announced Aquino’s consent “to a request from the Senate concerning the release of transcriptions of SMS conversations between him and General Purisima in the early hours of January 25, 2015.”
It added, “The pursuit of justice must be defined by a strong commitment to the truth. President Aquino has been unwavering in his support for truth-seeking regarding the Mamasapano incident, and encourages any action that would contribute to arriving at the truth at the soonest possible time.”
Aquino's consent comes almost a month after Purisima shared the text messages with the Senate during its probe on February 23. It also comes after the release of a Senate report that found Aquino ultimately responsible for the incident.
Still, the Palace issued a reminder to use the transcript responsibly.
“We therefore leave it to the responsible members of Congress to arrive at a methodology that will aid their investigation, bearing in mind that the inquiry should remain focused on its primary mission: to uncover the truth. In this manner, the process will not be abused by those who might be inclined to take advantage of the occasion to advance personal motives.”
The release of the transcript of the text messages is in response to a March 3 letter from the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to Aquino and Smart Communications’ chief executive officer. That letter makes reference to a subpoena asking Smart to submit SMS conversations from 5 am to 7 pm on January 25 between Aquino and Purisima.
In a letter from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr to Senate President Franklin Drilon, Ochoa asked that the text messages “be covered specifically by the executive privilege and generally by the privacy of communications,” because Purisima is still a member of the police.
“Nevertheless, in the interest of transparency and considering that the SMS conversations being sought have already been testified on by Mr Purisima during the 23 February 2015 public hearing of the Committee, the President has given his consent to the release of the requested transcriptions by Smart, excepting any and all portions which have no relation to the subject of the inquiry or matters involving national security,” it said.
The statement comes after a survey showed 8 out of 10 Filipinos said they are not satisfied with the explanation of the President so far.
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.
A Board of Inquiry (BOI) report has since scored Aquino for bypassing the Philippine National Police chain of command in the Mamasapano operation by communicating with Purisima, who was suspended at that time. The President was unable to air his side in both the BOI and Senate investigations. – Rappler.com