PNP-SAF killings: President Aquino pressed for answers
MANILA, Philippines — A militant group pressed President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday morning to come clean about his knowledge of the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) were killed.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) issued the call amid reports that the President ordered the “covert operation” and even tapped suspended Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to oversee the “sensitive mission.”
“It is hard to believe that 392 elite PNP SAF were being mobilized for an operation against a so-called high-value target and yet our top officials claim they were not aware,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
“If he knew of and approved the Mamasapano operation, upon the directive of the United States, then the President is also accountable,” Reyes added.
“Aquino has a lot of explaining to do,” the Bayan official said.
Known for an anti-American stance, Reyes said “There are strong indications that what happened in Mamasapano was a US-directed counter-terror operation sanctioned by Aquino himself.”
The large-scale operation was meant to serve an arrest warrant to Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist and bomb maker Zulkifli Bin Hir or “Commander Marwan.” Marwan is one of the most wanted terrorist of US Federal Bureau of Investigation with a $5 million bounty on his head.
Suspicion that Mr. Aquino knew about the Mamasapano operation was bolstered by his visit to Zamboanga City on Sunday purportedly to see victims of a deadly bombing there that killed two people and hurt 50 individuals.
His visit was on the same day elite PNP-SAF lawmen were sent to Maguindanao.
“Aquino cannot feign ignorance of the operations since he was nearby in Zamboanga at the time,” the Bayan official said.
The group also claimed the involvement of US troops in the operation.
During the retrieval operations, American soldiers were seen assisting military personnel at the 6th Infantry Division base of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Awang, Maguindanao.
When Roxas was asked about the US presence, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said: “This might be part of the Balikatan Exercises. Maybe they were there to provide logistical support to the AFP.”
“The involvement of the US and the blind compliance of the Aquino government to US anti-terror directives again places our citizens in peril. The failed counter-terror operation has now affected the peace process with the MILF,” Reyes said.
If proven true, Reyes said, this would not be the first time as the US was also involved in the drone strike that allegedly killed Marwan in 2012.
Malacanang said President Aquino would be delivering a speech on the incident on Wednesday afternoon.
“The President must come clean about his role in all this,” Reyes said of the scheduled speech of the President.
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