Senate OKs creation of truth commission
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate peace committee on Wednesday approved a bill seeking the creation of a truth commission that will look into the Jan. 25 massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III announced after a hearing that Senate Bill (SB) No. 2603 was deemed approved at the committee level and would issue a report on the proposal in time.
“I think their first mandate would be to reconcile all the findings of the different bodies,” Guingona said of the commission, “with the end in view of finding justice for everyone, and then after that, reconciliation, and true and lasting peace.”
The commission could recommend the prosecution of individuals, as well as the creation of bodies that would look into the “historical injustices” in the past, said Guingona, the committee chair.
SB No. 2603 proposes that the truth commission be composed of a chair and two commissioners to be appointed by President Aquino.
Guingona, principal author of the bill, had earlier floated the names of former Supreme Court Chief Justices Reynato Puno and Hilario Davide Jr., and former Sen. Wigberto Tañada to either head or constitute the truth commission.
Under the bill, the body is vested with plenary powers to investigate and report on the tragedy.
Its job is to collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence on the incident; subpoena witnesses and documents; and write a report, including its findings, conclusions and recommendations, among others.
“Their first mandate would be to reconcile all the findings of the different bodies,” Guingona said, referring to the Philippine National Police’s board of inquiry, the Department of Justice, the Senate and House of Representatives, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Given concerns that the body might only look into the deaths only of the SAF troopers, Guingona agreed that it should also expand its investigation to include the slain rebels and civilians.
“There should be justice for all,” he said.
During yesterday’s hearing, legal experts, Islam scholars and peace advocates expressed support for the truth commission.
But Datu Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan said that if the commission only dwelt on Mamasapano, it might just “deepen the wounds that it seeks to heal.”
Lidasan, executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, recommended the creation of a panel that would provide a “wider discourse” on truth, justice and reparation.
Calls for the establishment of an independent truth commission have been made amid fears of a whitewash and cover-up by several investigative bodies looking into the slaughter of the commandos after they reportedly killed a Malaysian terrorist and ran into Moro rebel groups during their withdrawal.
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