MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – During what he said would be the last time he would speak publicly on the Mamasapano incident, President Benigno Aquino III took a swipe at the Senate and the Board of Inquiry (BOI) for their respective reports on the botched operation.
On Thursday, March 26, at the graduation of the 2015 class of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), Aquino accused senators and members of the BOI of resorting to “guesswork instead of facts” in clarifying issues related to the January 25 operation that killed 44 police commandos, 18 Moro rebels and 5 civilians. (Editor’s note: The numbers are based on government data; the MILF however said only 17 of their men were killed)
“At present, there are two reports from which one can derive information about what transpired in Mamasapano: The Board of Inquiry Report and the Senate Report that were completed after their investigations. Many of the questions in the minds of our countrymen can be answered by these reports,” he said. (READ: Full text of Aquino’s speech)
“Both reports agree with our initial statements about certain details of the operation. In fact, the two reports reaffirm the position we had taken from the very beginning: The lack of coordination with the AFP was a major mistake.”
Aquino then expressed his disappointment in both bodies’ failure to ask for his side of the story.
“What saddens me is that at times, in lieu of asking me questions, those who prepared the reports chose to speculate instead. This leads us to ask: How can guesswork, instead of facts, help clarify this issue?,” he said.
Senator Grace Poe, who drafted the Senate report, stood by her committee’s findings.
“The basis of our findings is the testimonies of our resource persons and the text exchanges of the President that were made available to us. If there are other contrary facts, we will be discussing them during the period of interpellations when the Senate resumes, and if any new information can be substantiated, we may amend our findings,” Poe said in a text message.
The chairperson of the Senate public order committee viewed Aquino’s speech positively.
“The President’s appeal for understanding, coupled by his affirmation that the whole incident rests on his shoulders as President, is a welcome development to start the healing process particularly among the bereaved families of the fallen SAF heroes,” Poe added.
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 MILF blamed the SAF for failing to coordinate with them, as provided in its ceasefire agreement with the government on operations in known MILF territories.
The BOI report said Aquino was “liable” for “bypassing” the PNP’s chain of command while a separate Senate probe into the incident also found Aquino “ultimately responsible” for the operation.
After the release of the BOI report, Aquino met with Police Director Benjamin Magalong, who headed the independent body formed to probe the operation, to clarify parts of the report. Magalong said 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)
Aquino has asked for “deep understanding” regarding the incident but has refused to apologize, insisting his orders were not followed by former SAF commander Getulio Napeñas and former police chief Alan Purisima. – with reports from Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com
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