‘Aquino hasn’t read report but we have the answer’
MANILA, Philippines—“We have an answer but I would rather say it after the President has seen the report. And as I mentioned last week, we would not be able to make any sufficient comment on any matter raised in the BOI (board of inquiry) report without the President having gone through the report himself,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a press conference on Friday, before the Philippine National Police BOI report was made public.
The President had entrusted suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima with operation “Oplan Exodus,” the BOI reported.
Malacañang demurred from commenting on the final report of the BOI which stated boldly that President Benigno Aquino III had violated the chain of command when he allowed his close friend, Purisima, to run Oplan Exodus to take down international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, last Jan. 25.
“We will be unable to comment on substantive points raised by the board of inquiry’s investigation until such time that the President has gone through its contents,” Valte said in a text message.
After receiving the 128-page report from PNP Officer in Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and BOI head Police Director Benjamin Magalong, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Mr. Aquino should not be held accountable for the botched incident.
“The important thing is that we are doing the necessary steps (to correct the mistakes committed),” he added.
It is unclear if Mr. Aquino had already been furnished a copy of the BOI report, which had been uploaded on the PNP website.
Roxas, after reading the BOI report, cleared the President of any liability in the bloody result of Oplan Exodus, which ended in the massacre of 44 PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were ambushed by Muslim rebels as they were leaving the area where they had killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan.”
But the BOI clearly stated that Mr. Aquino had “allowed the participation of suspended PNP Chief Purisima in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman.”
The report said that while the President had the “prerogative to deal directly with any of his subordinates,” dealing with Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas instead of Espina “bypassed the established PNP chain of command.”
While Mr. Aquino has spoken extensively about the Mamasapano debacle, he has yet to fully explain why he involved Purisima in the meetings concerning the Jan. 25 operation, and not Espina, who was the concurrent deputy PNP chief for operations.
Valte maintained that even when a government official is his personal friend, the President remains “objective” when it comes to dealing with important issues like the Mamasapano debacle.
While Marwan was killed in the Jan. 25 operation, 67 people also lost their lives: the 44 SAF commandos; 18 rebels of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); five civilians; and an undetermined number of rebels from the other Muslim insurgent group that participated in the massacre, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The bloodbath also dealt a blow on the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, even as Napeñas himself admitted he bypassed the agreed ceasefire mechanisms because of his distrust of the MILF and the Armed Forces.
Valte stressed that the President gave instructions for Napeñas to coordinate with the “others” who would be involved in the operation and that these instructions were not followed.
“When the President says ‘coordinate,’ he already assumes that the person he was talking to would understand what he meant. (Napeñas) is not new in the force. He should know the operation and what to do, especially when the President says ‘coordinate.’ And the President did not only say ‘coordinate.’ The President issued many other instructions,” Valte said.
The BOI noted that none of the records it received showed the President giving “clear or decisive instruction… to take into consideration the ongoing peace process with the MILF as well as the role of the peace process mechanisms in Oplan Exodus.”
“The implications of Oplan Exodus and its effect on the peace agreement and the passage of [the] Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should have been considered in the planning and execution,” the report said.
It quoted Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan as saying that “there is high probability of [an] MILF encounter” when law enforcement operations such as Oplan Exodus are carried out in their “controlled territory.”
“As Chief Executive of the Philippines, the President could have given strategic guidance to Napeñas on the implications of conducting a law enforcement operation within MILF-controlled communities,” the BOI said. With a report from Marlon Ramos
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