Enrile info prompts new Mamasapano inquiry
ON THE REQUEST of Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate will mark the first anniversary of the Mamasapano debacle by reopening its investigation to tackle “possibly new evidence” on the bloody clashes between police commandos and Moro fighters and members of private armed groups.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the public order committee that led the inquiry, Tuesday said an additional hearing would be conducted on the morning of Jan. 25.
The hearing will be held exactly one year after the counterterrorist operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, led to the killing of Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and the deaths of 44 elite police operatives, 17 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and three civilians.
The Senate rules committee, chaired by Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, recently said there were no longer obstacles to the return of the Mamasapano report to the committees for the conduct of hearings without voiding the previous proceedings.
The ruling of Cayetano’s committee also said that whenever a fellow senator asserted that he or she had new matters to raise, “then the body will take in good faith that there are indeed new matters.”
“This considers not only to the assertion of the movant, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, but also the opinion expressed by Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the primary committee, that Senator Enrile has in his possession ‘new matters and perspectives,’ and she interposes no objections to the motion,” the committee said.
The clashes came after then PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, ignored ceasefire mechanisms between the government and the MILF.
The fallout from the otherwise successful counterterrorism operation derailed the peace process between the government and the MILF, endangering the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law whose fate in Congress continues to hang in the balance.
The massacre also dealt the biggest blow to President Aquino’s popularity, with his numbers dropping to an all-time low after the debacle.
The Senate report on Mamasapano called the killing of the 44 SAF troopers a “massacre” and found the President ultimately responsible for the debacle. It recommended charges against MILF members and police officials.
“It’s good that the rules committee gave a go-signal that additional hearings can be called in response to Minority Leader [Juan Ponce] Enrile’s request to call such, citing his personal information and possibly new evidence,” Poe said.
She reiterated her manifestation that the new hearings would not affect or void the earlier findings of the Senate committees that conducted the probe. Twenty-one members signed their report.
“There is always space if there is new evidence,” she said.
Last November, Enrile asked that the Mamasapano issue be reopened at the committee level because he wanted to ask more questions in order to put closure to the issue, particularly about what the government was actually doing when the encounter between police commandos and Moro rebels were taking place.
Enrile was detained at PNP General Hospital for plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam when the Senate conducted its inquiry into the Mamasapano incident. He returned to the Senate in August after being granted bail.
In an earlier privilege speech, Enrile recalled that when news of the Mamasapano incident reached him in detention, a lot of questions came to mind about its tragic end.
Palace silence ominous
“In those critical moments when the battle was apparently going on, I recall no word was uttered from the Palace, from the AFP, and from the PNP,” he said.
Enrile described the silence as ominous. “Was there a government paralysis during those tense moments?” he asked.
During the interpellation of his privilege speech last October where he sought for the reopening of the inquiry at the committee level, Enrile disclosed his having met the SAF survivors at the PNP hospital.
He said that he learned about the “gruesome slaughter” of the police commandos on Jan. 28 last year and that a few days later the survivors were brought to the PNP hospital. “They stayed with me in that building for quite some time.”
“I had several personal encounters with them and their families. These were occasions too for me to talk to some of them, and they related their frightening recollections of the bloody massacre,” Enrile said.
He also said the survivors and dependents had told him of “their resentment and disenchantment as it seemed to some of them that the death of the SAF 44 was now largely exploited to serve political ends, some for political propaganda.”
Enrile said he promised the survivors to bring up their case in the Senate should he return there.
In an interview, Sen. Vicente Sotto III said Enrile wanted to take up these issues because the story of what had happened there was not yet complete.
Sotto underscored the need to find out if there was new information on the incident and lessons to be learned. “I don’t think the intent is to find fault but to complete the entire picture.”
Last September, the President rekindled interest in the issue by saying there was an “alternative” version of what had transpired in Mamasapano.
Mr. Aquino also mentioned a picture that came out on the Inquirer’s front page that he said “posed so many questions, and that is what we want to resolve.” He added that he did not want to talk too deeply about the specifics as it might hamper efforts to get to the complete truth.
The President’s statement gave rise to speculations that the SAF members did not kill Marwan, but the President later tamped this down and said there was no doubt that the commandos had killed and cut off the finger of the terrorist.
Marwan’s finger was used for DNA testing conducted by the United States, which had a multimillion-dollar bounty for the Malaysian terrorist.
Malacañang on Tuesday said it recognized the mandate of the Senate to reopen its investigation into the Mamasapano debacle, pointing out the separation of powers between the executive and legislative, even as the President had put closure to the controversial police counterterrorism operation several times.
“We recognize that part of the Senate’s mandate is to conduct investigations in aid of legislation and as part of its oversight functions,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said when sought for comment.