MANILA, Philippines – On Monday, February 9, and Tuesday, February 10, the Philippine Senate held a public hearing on the clash between members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) and rebel forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
A total of 44 elite cops died in the carnage, causing public outrage and nationwide mourning. Eighteen MILF fighters were also killed during the firefight, along with several civilians.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, along with the committee on peace and unification, presided over the hearing.
Representatives from the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and officials involved in the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attended.
Among those who attended were former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who just resigned from his post as police chief on February 6, and Chief Superintendent Getulio Napeñas, who was sacked from his position as SAF commander.
In an earlier interview, Napeñas said Purisima was calling the shots during the SAF operations despite being suspended over corruption allegations pending before the Ombudsman. On the first hearing day, Napeñas admitted giving the go-signal to mobilize the SAF troops in Mamasapano, but was acting upon the orders of Purisima, whose text messages he read during the hearing.
The former police chief denied giving orders, saying he was merely dispensing "advice."
On the second hearing day, tensions flared between Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles and chief government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. Cayetano, had withdawn his authorship of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law after the clash. He linked the MILF to terrorists and blamed the group for the carnage.
The MILF, through a letter written by chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, promised to return firearms and personal belongings of the 44 elite cops killed in Mamasapano as part of the the group's commitment to the peace process.
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