Aquino doesn’t have to appear in House probe on Mamasapano – Speaker
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III does not need to appear before Congress to explain what he knows about the Special Action Force (SAF) operation to take down two terrorists that ended in the deaths of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Belmonte said on Sunday, that Congress could only invite but not summon the President to testify in any of its hearings, but even if he volunteered to attend, it would not be necessary.
Aquino has publicly spoken twice about the Mamasapano encounter, the last time, on Feb. 6, lamenting the deaths of the 44 SAF commandos but still not saying who gave the green light for the operation.
Lawmakers have filed resolutions in the Senate and in the House of Representatives for the formation of a “Mamasapano Truth Commission” that would have the power to summon the President to an investigation.
The Senate opens its inquiry into the Mamasapano clash on Monday (Feb. 9) and the House will start its own probe on Wednesday (Feb. 11).
Belmonte said he had asked Senate President Franklin Drilon if the House and Senate could hold a joint investigation to avoid duplication of questions to resource persons.
“I talked to Senate President Drilon, probably the other senators don’t like it,” Belmonte said.
Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, chair of the committee on public order and safety, said the panel would like to know the exact role played by the President in the mission.
“We will know that by starting at the bottom,” he said.
Ferrer said he, too, was disappointed with the President’s statements on his role in the mission.
“For me, he should have made stronger statements, which were expected by the public. But we should give him leeway in his job. He is doing his job but the public is not just feeling it,” Ferrer said.
In an interview on dzBB radio, Ferrer said the main resource persons in Wednesday’s hearing would be officers of the Philippine National Police, including the lone survivor of the 12-hour SAF gun battle with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas, PO2 Christopher Lalan, and resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima.
Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, will also be there, according to Ferrer.
He said the committee has also invited representatives from the US Embassy to clear up the role the United States played in the SAF mission.
Relatives of the 44 police commandos killed in the gun battle with MILF rebels will also attend the hearing, according to Ferrer.
“We want to know what went wrong, [who called] the shots,” Ferrer said. “They say it’s a successful operation, but what is successful about losing 44 men?”
Another question is why a member of the MILF has surfaced as the informant and recipient of the $6-million reward from the United States for the killing of Marwan.
Ferrer said the reward should go to the widows and relatives of the slain SAF commandos, as their loved ones gave their lives to get Marwan.
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