Aquino ‘hid behind’ Purisima to escape blame – Enrile

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday, January 27, accused President Benigno Aquino III of “hiding behind” former Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to escape responsibility over the Mamasapano encounter.

At the Senate probe into the botched police operation which he had asked to  be re-opened, Enrile vowed to present evidence to prove this allegation, along with 7 other points he raised against Aquino in his opening statement. (READ: Senate reopens Mamasapano probe to hear 'new evidence')

“To shield himself from any accountability and responsibility, President Aquino deliberately hid or was hiding himself behind PDG Purisima,” Enrile said.

The Ombudsman sacked Purisima and 10 other police officers over their involvement in Oplan Exodus, the operation targetting high value targets led by Zulkifli bin Hir alis Marwan on January 25, 2015. The former top cop, among others, is also facing criminal charges.

Enrile also accused Aquino of not doing any “effective action” as Commander-in-Chief “to prevent the barbaric slaying and slaughter of the PNP SAF troopers whom he knowingly and deliberately sent on a dangerous mission.”

The senator's statements seemed to contradict his personal advice to his Senate allies in February last year, ahead of the start of the Senate probe into the incident. (READ: Enrile advises allies: Don't use SAF to hit Aquino)

Promise

The senator said his bid to re-open the hearing is not motivated by politics or any personal grudge, as alleged by his critics, but by a “promise” that he had made to survivors of Oplan Exodus, which claimed over 60 people, including 44 member sof the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.

Enrile said he made the promise to some of the survivors while he was on hospital arrest at the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame.

Enrile was detained for plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam until he was granted bail in August last year, and was unable to participate in the Senate probe into the clash then.

“I vowed to them then that if ever I be given a chance to get bail, I will seek justice for them and for all those who perished,” said Enrile, an ally of United Nationalist Alliance standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay.

In her opening statement, Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, also dismissed allegations that the re-opening of the investigation is politically-motivated.

"Let me emphasize it succinctly: the purpose of this inquiry is not only to find fault but more importantly, to know the absolute and complete truth," said Poe, a presidential aspirant.

The Mamasapano encounter is the biggest blow to the Aquino administration. It pulled down the President's approval and trust ratings to their lowest a couple of months after the incident, though he managed to bounce back by June. 

Aquino had alleged that the reopening of the probe on the incident, which had been completed by the Senate, the House of Representatives, and various government agencies, is politically-motivated. (READ: Political foes 'taking advantage' of Mamasapano probe – Aquino) – Rappler.com