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Duterte attacks Roxas again, blames him for Mamasapano massacre

MANILA, Philippines — Four years after the 2015 Mamasapano massacre in Maguindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte has blamed former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in the botched police operation.

The President challenged Roxas to explain why the SAF was tapped for the operation to arrest two terrorists in Maguindanao and why there were no reinforcements from the military.

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“They could not even explain why it was the police who went there who were totally ignorant of the topography and the physical arrangement of the fields,” the President said on Tuesday at the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan campaign rally in Tuguegarao City.

No answer

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The President said Roxas, a senatorial candidate of the Otso Diretso coalition, had been unable to provide answers to the circumstances that led to the deaths of the SAF troopers.

“Why was the Army not sent as reinforcements in the day-long firefight? Why is there no air support, even if there were many air assets [near] the place?” the President said.

He dared Roxas, an ally of former President Benigno Aquino III, to come up with an explanation. If he were satisfied by it, the President said he himself would endorse Roxas’ senatorial bid.

On Jan. 25, 2015, the SAF was on a mission to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman.

The police operation alerted Moro rebels in the area and proceeded to engage the SAF in a fierce firefight.

Kept in the dark

In a Senate investigation months after the tragedy, Roxas said he was kept in the dark and clueless about the police operation and only learned of it later.

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Police Lt. Gen. Leonardo Espina, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police during the suspension of Police Gen. Alan Purisima, was also kept out of the loop.

Purisima personally knew of the operations led by the then SAF chief, Police Maj. Gen. Getulio Napeñas, who directly reported the operation’s progress to Aquino.

The President has criticized Roxas and other candidates of Otso Diretso on several occasions since February, when the campaign period started.

In Malabon City earlier this month, the President called Roxas the “number one political butterfly” for having served in various Cabinet positions under different administrations.

He also questioned Roxas’ track record, saying Roxas had done nothing for the country that left a lasting impression.

At a rally in Isabela City, Basilan province, in March, the President assailed Roxas, his rival in the 2016 presidential election, for having no loyalty and principles, and for merely riding on his family name.

Traffic aide

The week before during the distribution of land titles in Negros Occidental, the President derided Roxas for his old gimmick of managing traffic on a busy street.

On Tuesday night, the President claimed that he was with Roxas and Aquino when the tragic incident happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

He said he was in Zamboanga City where he was summoned to a command conference with Roxas and Aquino in attendance.

“I asked around, ‘What happened?’ One told me, ‘They were all killed, no one left.’ ‘Why? No reinforcements?’ ‘Sir, there was no order, sir. We wanted to go there, but there was no order,’” Mr. Duterte said.

It was stupid of Aquino, he said, to ask his police and military generals what could have been done, when the 44 SAF troopers were already dead.

“He (Aquino) asked the generals, ‘If you were there, what would you do?’ Son of a bitch, I stood up and said, ‘Mr. President, I have a flight.’ I had to stand up because it was a very stupid,” the President said.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, 2019 senatorial candidates, Mamasapano massacre, Mar Roxas, Rodrigo Duterte
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