Palace tells lawmakers on impeach threat: Straighten out your priorities
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang told lawmakers on Thursday to set their priorities straight amid threats by a militant bloc to impeach President Aquino for his role in the failed Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which led to the deaths of 44 commandos.
“Our focus now is for us to push and win the fight against terrorism and continue the peace process. I hope that elected representatives of our country will put in their minds and feelings the more important priorities of the country,” said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Coloma said that it would be up to the Makabayan bloc to push their own agenda. ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said that the President should take responsibility for the mission’s failure if it was determined that he gave the green light for the Sunday dawn assault. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. scoffed at the Makabayan’s bloc’s threat to impeach the President. “Ridiculous. The President is doing is what is in his view the best interest of the country,” said Belmonte.
Coloma also expressed confidence that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina would continue to uplift the morale of the police force amid a plan by the PNPA Alumni Association to spearhead a mass leave.
Asked whether there was a need to check the morale of the police who felt their comrades were left to die in the remote Maguindanao town, Coloma said that communicating with the police on their feelings and grievances has become a “continuing activity.”
“In every opportunity, the leadership always tries to let the troops understand the goals of the national police. That is the priority of Armed Forces leaders because their duty and service to the nation are important,” said Coloma.
Coloma appealed to the PNPA to reconsider their decision to lead a mass leave of policemen after listening to the President’s national address Wednesday night to explain the events that led to the Mamasapano mis-encounter and enlighten the public on its plans to pursue the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
“All the important issues have been tackled by President Aquino and I hope they consider this in their decision. I’m not sure when they finalized their decision before or after the President’s speech. Nevertheless, we respect their decision,” said ?Coloma.
Coloma said he had no information on reports that American soldiers were present during the mission to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a Malaysian terrorist and Abdul Basit Usma, a Filipino. Coloma said he had no information on the $6 million bounty for Marwan who was allegedly killed in the assault.
Coloma also went out of his way to address the statement of former President Fidel V. Ramos who blamed President Aquino’s poor strategic direction as the commander in chief in the mission.
“He is one of the leaders who expressed the position on the importance of the peace process and we respect his expression of his views on other issues,” said Coloma.
Coloma also echoed the President’s fears that some sectors were out to take advantage of the public outrage on the fallen SAF to derail the government’s unflinching thrust to reach a peace pact with Muslim rebels.
Coloma revealed that the government peace panel led by the Philippine chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has started in Malaysia discussions on the protocol implementing the decommissioning of firearms from the MILF. He said that experts comprising the independent decommissioning body would come from Turkey, Norway, and Brunei.