Aquino: No apologies, but seeks understanding
CAVITE, Philippines – Right in the thick of the worst crisis to hit his administration, President Benigno Aquino III delivered a message in front of the graduating class of the Philippine National Police Academy and key officials of the PNP.
As he spoke about the Mamasapano clash, where 44 elite cops from the Special Action Force were killed, his tone was more contrite, a stark contrast to his more combative speeches from the weeks prior.
But what did the President say? Natashya Gutierrez reports.
NATASHYA GUTIERREZ, REPORTING: He makes no apologies but seeks understanding. At the graduation of cadets from the Philippine National Police Academy, President Benigno Aquino III speaks one last time on the Mamasapano incident that left 44 elite cops dead.
Two months since the botched police operation targeting top terrorists, Aquino reiterates taking responsibility for the death of the 44, but asks the public to put themselves in his shoes.
He says his orders were not followed.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: Ang magagawa ko na lamang matapos masabi ang lahat ng dapat sabihin at magawa ang lahat ng dapat gawin: Humingi po ng pang-unawa. Gaano man katindi ang galit ko sa ginawang pagsuway sa ibinigay kong utos, gaano man ang pagsisisi ko sa pagtitiwala sa mga taong itinago sa akin ang totoo, hindi ko mabubura ang katotohanan: Patay na ang 44 na miyembro ng ating kapulisan. At nangyari ito sa panahon ng aking panunungkulan. Dadalhin ko—at uulitin ko po—dadalhin ko ang katotohanang ito hanggang sa aking mismong libingan. Ang sa akin lang po, subukan rin sana ninyong ilagay ang sarili ninyo sa sitwasyon ko. Kung sa umaga pa lang nauna akong pinadalhan ng mensahe tinapat na ako at sinabing, sir, nagigipit na kami. Hindi po namin nasunod ang sinabi ninyong koordinasyon kaya mabagal ang usad ng Armed Forces. Puwede po ba ninyo kaming tulungang mapabilis ang responde?” Kung nalaman ko ito agad, sa tingin n’yo ba, hindi ako gagawa ng paraan para tulungan ang ating hanay?
(All I can do, after saying all that must be said, and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding. Regardless of my anger for the disregard for the orders I gave, regardless of my regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from me, I can never erase the fact: 44 members of our police force are dead. And this happened under my term. Let me stress it: I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave. My appeal is this: Try to put yourselves in my situation. If I had been honestly told on the morning of the incident: 'Sir, we are at a disadvantage, we were unable to follow your order to coordinate with the AFP, which is why they are moving slowly. Can you please help us expedite their response?'—if I had known this immediately, do you think I would have missed the chance to help our men?)
Aquino does not go into detail on the operation as he has in the past, nor does he mention any names… but says he is being nothing but honest.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: Sa mata po ng Diyos, totoo po ang sinasabi ko sa inyo. Pero batid ko na may ilang sarado na ang isip at hindi na makikinig kahit ano pa ang aking sabihin.
With God as my witness, I tell you the truth. But I am aware there are those who are close-minded, who will not listen regardless of what I say.
He also vows justice for the fallen.
Both the reports from the Board of Inquiry and the Senate found Aquino responsible for the operation.
In past speeches, Aquino blamed sacked Special Action Forces Chief Getulio Napeñas and former police chief Alan Purisima for not following his orders and for not being upfront with him on the status of the operation.
Aquino’s speech comes as a poll shows 8 of 10 Filipinos are not happy with his explanation on Mamasapano thus far, and as his survey numbers plunge following the incident. It remains to be seen how Filipinos will react to Aquino’s appeal. Is it too little too late?
Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Cavite.