Aquino: Purisima lied to me
A breathtaking big-picture view of Mamasapano. Rem Zamora/PDI
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MANILA, Philippines–Alan Purisima may have lied to him, but President Aquino apparently has no regrets entrusting to his close friend, although under suspension on corruption charges, the police operation in Mamasapano on Jan. 25 that cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
“I didn’t hear or see anything in him [Aquino] showing anything regarding regret,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said Tuesday as the Senate wound up its inquiry into the tragic affair, during which Purisima himself finally admitted that he was in fact the “overall commander” of the project to take out a Malaysian terrorist nicknamed, “Marwan.”
“What I saw during the past month has been the determination of the President to find out the whole truth so that his understanding would be complete and this would guide him for future actions,” Coloma told reporters.
Purisima was under suspension as Philippine National Police director general when he gave “advice” to Director Getulio Napeñas, the SAF commander who was subsequently sacked, to take down Marwan (real name: Zulkifli bin Hir), who had a $6-million bounty from the FBI, in the Maguindanao province marshland.
In a meeting with a group of congressmen on Monday, the President said that Purisima, who has resigned as PNP director general, after the Mamasapano debacle, lied to him about the unfolding tragedy in besetting “Oplan Exodus” in Mamasapano in their exchange of text messages in the early morning of Jan. 25.
Transcript of text messages
Aside from saying he was deceived, the President said that his orders to inform the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP officer in charge, before the jump-off were not followed, according to select lawmakers who were present during the four-hour meeting in Malacañang.
Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, a former general, said Aquino showed him and other lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. a transcript of the text messages between him and Purisima, who was in his rest house in Nueva Ecija at that time and getting his information from Napeñas.
Purisima also disclosed the same document to senators looking into the Mamasapano slaughter, which showed Aquino was being fed inaccurate information during the crucial hours of that fateful Sunday morning after the SAF troopers reportedly succeeded in killing Marwan and were battling for their lives against forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its breakaway faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Lack of urgency
Acop asked the President whether he was being given inaccurate information and quoted the President as replying: “They are not only inaccurate, they are lies. Don’t you think these are not lies with these?”
Acop said that the most striking things about Purisima’s messages to the President were his lack of urgency in getting military reinforcement for the retreating SAF troops and what he was relaying did not “jibe with what I knew was actually happening on the ground.”
Acop, however, did not ask the President when he realized he was being deceived.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez surmised that the President probably knew the dire situation of the SAF troops between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when reports of the death toll started streaming in. Aquino was in Zamboanga City at the time, ostensibly to look into a bombing incident earlier in which two people were killed.
“The President felt he was lied to by Purisima because the one texting him was Purisima, not Napeñas. He also said they did not follow orders,” Rodriguez said.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said: “The President did not say Purisima or Napeñas were liars, but he felt he deserves to be told the truth.”
Zamora also noted that the House delegation was “too polite” during the meeting and that the President was “being careful with his words.”
Zamora said that while the President was able to clarify his participation in the Jan. 25 mission, he left unanswered why he was getting the information from Purisima who was more than a month into his six-month suspension from the Ombudsman at that point.
Speak to nation again
“He (President) did not go through regular channels, through the regular chain of command of the PNP. He got everything from Purisima who was in Nueva Ecija, which was a strange place to be if you are directing a major operation. Why was a major operation done so casually? (The mission) fell apart because nobody knew how to deal with it,” Zamora said.
Both Zamora and Rodriguez agreed that the President should speak to the nation again and elaborate on his role in the mission. In his two previous national speeches, the President blamed the Mamasapano massacre on the lack of coordination and he even spoke of the difficulty of firing Purisima, his longtime friend.
Rodriguez said it took hours before the President knew of the real situation because he proceeded with his schedule in Zamboanga City that Sunday afternoon.
“He thought everything was going on course because the text said the Armed Forces were already supporting them,” Rodriguez said.
‘I need to stay calm’
Aquino on Tuesday defended his actions in the aftermath of the Mamasapano fiasco, reiterating his call for sobriety from a public furious over how authorities handled—or allegedly mishandled—the Jan. 25 operation.
On the eve of the 29th Edsa People Power anniversary when he also feted 10 outstanding youth organizations, the President cited his efforts to live by the lessons of the bloodless revolution: The need to promote the “interest of the majority, freedom from the crooked ways of the past and a better tomorrow for the next generation.”
He described as a “challenge” the Mamasapano incident.
“As President, I am doing everything as I face and attend to the problems of the nation,” he told his audience in Malacañang, citing problems such as the Mamasapano debacle.
“I cannot give in to my emotions because I might only make the problem worse. Each time, I need to stay calm and remember for whom these efforts of ours are,” he added, reiterating the same call for sobriety he made in a televised address on Feb. 6.
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