House ally accuses Aquino of 'brazen cover-up'


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – "This is the latest development in the shrinking of the man from a credible president to a small-minded bureaucrat." 

A political ally of President Benigno Aquino III posted this on Facebook on Tuesday, March 10, a day after Aquino attacked and blamed former police Special Action Force (SAF) Commander Getulio Napeñas for the Mamasapano tragedy that killed 44 elite cops, 18 Moro rebels and 3 civilians.

In his Facebook post, 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 Purisima for the tragic SAF mission and placing all blame on the ground commander Napeñas," Bello said. 

"This is the latest development in the shrinking of the man from a credible president to a small-minded bureaucrat trying desperately to erase his fingerprints from a failed project to save his own ass. This man knows nothing of command responsibility or of honor," he added. 

Akbayan's stand

Akbayan coalesced with Aquino's Liberal Party in the 2010 presidential elections and is part of the ruling coalition. At least 3 senior Akbayan leaders work in government: Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, and National Anti-Poverty Commission head Joel Rocamora.

Akbayan on Tuesday distanced itself from Bello's statement.

"Rep Walden made it clear that his statement against Aquino over Mamasapano are his personal opinion and is not necessarily shared by the party," Bello's fellow Akbayan Representative Barry Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said he will issue a statement on the issue when the BOI result is out.

Bello conceded that his statements are not necessarily shared by the party. 

In a phone interview with Rappler, Bello said Aquino's statements on Monday, March 9, were "disturbing" and "shocking."

"The first thing that a chief of state, a head of state does is to take command responsibility for an operation he gave approval for, no matter what happened to it. This guy is trying to wiggle out of his responsibility and is hoisting that to a subordinate," Bello said. 

Withdrawing support?

"This is not at all a presidential kind of behavior and in fact, it is something that is extremely disappointing and, of course, makes one very angry. And I have lost all expectations regarding what would be the President's behavior in instances such as this," he added.

The party-list lawmaker said he is "seriously considering" withdrawing his support from the President. 

"I am strongly inclined to withdraw my support from the President but that decision –  that is the decision that I have to seriously seriously think about," Bello said. 

This is not the first time that Bello had spoken out against the President. They used to be "textmates."

The friendship faced rough sailing after Bello earned the President's ire in November 2014 when he criticized the administration's controversial pump-prime scheme known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program and called for the resignation of key Cabinet members. 

Aquino called key Akbayan leaders to a meeting after this and advised them to toe the administration line.

Asked to comment on Bello's statements back then, Aquino "dared" the lawmaker to run for president in 2016 since he had "so many complaints" about the administration. 

Akbayan also distanced itself from Bello's statements at the time. The party said then that it did not share Bello's opinion, stressing that it continued to support the President.

BOI report delay

Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon, a member of the leftist Makabayan bloc in the House, said Aquino should come clean with his real role in Operation Exodus and "stop fooling" the Filipino people. 

“If there’s a mambobola around, it’s President Aquino. He’s saying to us that Napeñas’ poor judgment and direction made Operation Exodus a ‘mission impossible.’ Yet at the end of the day, we have to return the question: who greenlighted the mission? Who authorized the offensive? Napeñas cannot issue commands without delegated authority from his superiors. And Aquino as commander-in-chief is ultimately responsible,” Ridon said in a statement. 

Another member of the Makabayan bloc, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, meanwhile, called on Aquino to cooperate in the ongoing probe.

"The after effects of the Mamasapano are now sabotaging even the outcome of the entire peace process. And, since President Aquino keeps on changing his story, he might as well state under oath all his statements and submit himself to investigation if it is really true that he is not fooling the people. If he fails to do that, this we say to him: he can fool himself but he can not fool the people," Zarate said. 

Addressing religious leaders on Monday, Aquino categorically blamed Napeñas for the Mamasapano incident. He said Napeñas did not follow his orders to cooperate with the military and gave him inaccurate information about the what was happening on the ground, among others.  (READ: Aquino: Napeñas 'tricked me' on Mamasapano)

The President gave the statement on the day the Board of Inquiry (BOI) investigating the probe was supposed to submit its report.  

Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco, interim president of the United Nationalist Alliance, said Aquino preempted the findings of the BOI with his statements.

"Can we expect the BOI members to say otherwise when the President absolved himself of any blame, barely mentioned his BFF Purisima, and dumped the blame on Napenas?" Tiangco SAID.

Valenzuela City 1st district Representative Sherwin Gatchalian of the Nationalist People's Coalition said further delays could raise more questions on the credibility of the report. 

“The first deadline was on February 26, which was extended to March 6, and again extended to March 9. We don’t know when the next deadline will be but the more the BOI delays its report, the more it will fuel speculations that a cover-up is in-the-making,” said Gatchalian. –