Poe: Releasing Purisima testimony good for Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe said on Wednesday, February 18, that making public the testimony resigned police chief Alan Purisima made in an executive session on the Mamasapano incident will do President Benigno Aquino III good.

Poe refused to give details on what Purisima told senators behind closed doors on Tuesday, but said that revealing this to the public “will even be better for the President.”

“General Purisima said that he needs to clarify with the President if he could release the information. If ever it was touched on in the hearing, that means that’s just one aspect of it. That’s just one resource person. There are others,” Poe said.

Purisima initially invoked executive privilege when asked in public Senate hearings last week who told Aquino about the January 25 clash that killed 44 elite cops, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and 3 civilians.

Purisima is under fire for supposedly directing the operation even while he was suspended over corruption charges. The general is a close friend, former bodyguard, and a shooting buddy of the President. 

The chairperson of the Senate public order committee, Poe announced that the Senate will hold another public hearing on Monday, February 23, to bring out discussions made in executive session that will not harm national security, personal security, ongoing operations, and diplomatic relations. 

She said another hearing can be held on Tuesday if necessary. Officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be asked to return to the chamber.

“We will ask without referencing particular statements from the executive session because the picture is clear to us now. We will ask the PNP and AFP,” Poe said.

Aside from Purisima, relieved Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas will be asked in the public hearing about revelations he made in executive session.

“To me, most of what he said can really be made public,” Poe said.

The Senate will also inquire from the MILF updates on its own investigation into the incident that endangered the rebel group’s peace process with the government. After 17 years of talks, the MILF and the Aquino administration signed a historic peace deal in 2014 that is close to being concluded before the tragedy occurred.

Asked if Malacañang will also be called to the hearing, Poe said the Palace has always sent a representative. Oddly enough, senators did not ask any question directed to the Office of the President in the past hearings. 

The SAF mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, triggered the worst security crisis for the Aquino administration.

While the troopers reportedly killed Marwan, members of the MILF, the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other armed men blocked the policemen’s escape route, and engaged in a day-long firefight with the SAF.

The PNP blamed the AFP’s failure to send immediate reinforcement for the heavy death toll, but the military and the MILF pointed to the SAF’s lack of coordination despite existing mechanisms under the peace process.

SAF survivors’ account still secret

After the hearings, the Senate public order committee will work on the report that will include recommendations for legislative remedies and possibly administrative and criminal liability.

Poe said that the accounts of SAF survivors and PNP Intelligence Director Fernando Mendez in an executive session will remain secret.

Senators met in executive session with two survivors last Thursday, with Napeñas on Monday, and with Mendez and Purisima separately on Tuesday.

“On the two survivors, their account of their experience was really compelling. You will admire them, how they managed to survive. I wanted to release that, but we agreed to protect them because there might be those who will plan to take revenge. For you to live, you have to find a way to survive,” Poe said.

Poe added that the survivors’ story on how “the enemy” trapped their group, and the SAF’s errors will also remain confidential.

“At first, we thought we could release it, but it will reveal our weakness.” – Rappler.com