Aquino isn’t passing blame, says Palace

MANILA, Philippines – The President used harsh words in his stinging rebuke of sacked Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas, but a day after President Benigno Aquino III’s speech, Malacañang said it was not Aquino’s intention to put blame on Napeñas.

This, despite Aquino enumerating all of Napeñas mistakes before saying, “The point is, he will be among those held liable.”

On Tuesday, March 10, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma defended Aquino’s 30-minute long explanation of what happened in Mamasapano from the day before, saying the President was not passing blame.

“It was not the President’s goal to blame. His primary goal was to cast light on the full events because that is what the Coalition of Christian Leaders asked for and that’s what he did yesterday,” he said.

Coloma also denied that Aquino was pre-empting the Board of Investigation (BOI)’s report on the incident when he pointed to flaws made by Napeñas. The President made his statements on the day the Board of Inquiry (BOI) investigating the probe was supposed to submit its report.

The Secretary said Aquino was merely “elaborating” on statements he already made on February 6, when he first cited Napeñas wrongdoing.

“Yesterday, he elaborated to complete was already previously stated – 3 instances where the mission could have been aborted,” he said.

“So in short, what the President did yesterday was just give a more comprehensive narration of what he already stated last February 6 about number one, the instances the mission could have been aborted and the fate of the SAF 44 could have been avoided, and second, about the lack of coordination.”

He later added, “There is no cover-up and there is no so-called whitewash or yellowash.”  

Malacañang’s statements come after Akbayan Representative Walden Bello slammed the President for engaging in a "brazen cover-up" of his responsibility over the Mamasapano tragedy. (FULL TEXT: 'Binola ako' ni Napeñas – Aquino)

"Mamasapano is a deadly acid eating at the presidency. Now the President is engaging in a brazen cover-up of his responsibility and that of his trusted aide (former police chief Alan) Purisima for the tragic SAF mission and placing all blame on the ground commander Napeñas," Bello said.

On January 25, some 392 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos entered Mamasapano town, a known bailiwick of the MILF, 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 65 lives, including 44 SAF troopers. 

Since the incident, various sectors, including some Catholic leaders, have called for the resignation of Aquino. They were frustrated by his handling of the incident and amid confusion of his role during the operation.

The BOI probing the incident and made up of police officials have yet to release their report. –