The question ‘no one’ can answer: Who informed Aquino about SAF killings?
Video by Cathy Miranda and Ryan Leagogo/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines–Who informed President Benigno Aquino III that scores of Special Action Force troopers were being killed during the covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao while he was in Zamboanga City?
This was the question of Senator Nancy Binay to Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. during the Senate hearing on the encounter.
Roxas, Gazmin and Catapang flew to Zamboanga City on the morning of Jan. 25, the height of the gun battle in Mamasapano, along with the President to inspect the site of the car bomb blast that killed two persons and injured 48.
Roxas said he had received a text message informing him of the firefight around 8 a.m. They landed in Zamboanga with Aquino at 10:30 a.m.
He said it was an “ordinary” occurrence that he gets a situation report on skirmishes in Maguindanao with Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“I did not know that there was a Special Action Force operation. When we got to Zamboanga I asked General (Edgardo) Ingking, the director for integrated police operations, what happened. He said it was a SAF operation,” he said.
Roxas and Philippine National Police officer in charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina were kept in the dark about the operation as allegedly ordered by resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
Like Roxas, Gazmin did not inform the President that almost a dozen have been killed in the morning because “there was no sense of urgency since he receives encounter report every day.”
“I didn’t inform the President. Unang una, SAF at MILF sa Maguindanao. To me there was no sense of urgency, araw-araw may encounter report until nagmount ‘yung casualties but earlier hindi ko nasabihan ang Pangulo kasi this is a PNP operation,” Gazmin said.
(I did not inform the President. First and foremost, (those) were SAF and MILF in Maguindanao. To me there was no sense of urgency; every day, we would receive encounter reports until the number of casualties has mounted. But earlier, I did not inform the President because (it was) a PNP operation.)
This puzzled Binay and asked the secretaries: “You already composed the majority of the security cabinet cluster and not one of you mentioned even to the President of the Mamasapano incident?
To which Roxas replied with: “Ma’am, we didn’t know this was a big problem. We didn’t know there was an operation ongoing. Araw araw nagpuputukan dito so hangga’t late in the afternoon lang namin nalaman (There would be gunfights every day and we only knew about it late in the afternoon).”
When Binay finally asked who broke the news to the President that 11 have already died, no one answered from the resource persons.
Senator Grace Poe, head of the Senate committee on public order, took over and asked Catapang if he informed Aquino.
“I did not inform the President. We were very focused on the Zamboanga bombing the whole day,” he answered.
Poe quickly replied: “Of which claimed the lives of how many in Zamboanga?” Catapang said “two.”
“And two you’re very concerned. Of course every life is valuable. That’s vital but this (Mamasapano) is also vital alongside with that,” Poe said.
Poe then turned to Purisima who knew about the operation from the planning to the execution.
“You never informed or even report to the President the progression?”
But Purisima asked the Senator time to seek clearance from Aquino to answer her question.
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