Senate report to fill gaps in PNP probe | Inquirer News

Senate report to fill gaps in PNP probe

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine National Police board of inquiry report on the bungled counterterrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25 left yawning gaps that Sen. Ralph Recto said Sunday could be filled by the Senate’s report on the mission that cost the lives of 44 police commandos.

The board of inquiry found that President Aquino broke the PNP chain of command by allowing suspended police Director General Alan Purisima, a personal friend, to take part in the planning and execution of the Special Action Force (SAF) mission to take down terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” Basit Usman and Amin Baco.


The report said it was Aquino who gave the go-signal for the mission, but it did not provide answers to such vital questions as to what orders the President issued to the military to save the police commandos who were surrounded by Moro rebels and what was the extent of the involvement of the United States in the mission.

“Hopefully, the Senate will be able to fill in the gaps,” Recto said in an interview on dzBB radio.


In the House of Representatives, lawmakers also want to know more about the President’s role in the military’s failure to help the pinned down SAF commandos and the involvement of the United States in the operation.

More than a third of the House members want to resume the Mamasapano inquiry, which was suspended to give way to the PNP investigation, but the probe, according to Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, will be pointless because the House cannot compel President Aquino to appear and speak about his role in the SAF operation.

Rodriguez, chair of the temporary committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), said it would be unnecessary for the House committees on public order and safety and peace, reconciliation and unity to resume the Mamasapano probe because the police report was “comprehensive and clear.”

He said the Senate would soon release its own report and the Department of Justice (DOJ) would also wrap up its investigation on the criminal aspects of the incident and file charges against those responsible for the deaths of 44 SAF commandos.

“The House probe will be a useless duplication. The House cannot require the President to appear before it. This is part of the respect for a coequal branch of government,” said Rodriguez, whose committee will resume executive sessions on the Bangsamoro autonomy law by April 6.

Early on Jan. 25, SAF commandos infiltrated into Moro rebel-controlled Mamasapano to capture the three Jemaah Islamiyah-linked terrorists.

The commandos killed the Malaysian-born Marwan in an exchange of gunfire, but Usman, a Filipino, and Baco, also a Malaysian, escaped.


As they withdrew from Mamasapano, the commandos were ambushed by guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other armed residents of the town.

Forty-four SAF commandos, 17 MILF rebels, not 18 as earlier reported, and three civilians, not five as reported before, were killed in a 12-hour gun battle.

The sacked SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, blamed the unit’s biggest single-day combat loss on the military’s failure to provide artillery support for his surrounded troops.

Exactly when President Aquino learned that the commandos needed military help and what orders he gave are unanswered in the police board of inquiry report.

Aquino has refused to take responsibility for the Mamasapano debacle, and he has come under heavy public criticism for it, with calls for him to step down.

On Saturday, after weeks of telling the public to wait for the PNP board of inquiry report to find out the truth, Malacañang rejected the police findings, saying the President was not part of the chain of command and could deal with any official in the executive branch.

Senate report

The Senate joint committee that investigated the Mamasapano clash will submit its report this week.

Recto said he liked the way the PNP board of inquiry wrote its report but wished it had “given more answers than questions.”

One of the questions that went unanswered, he said, was what the military and the police hierarchy immediately did to respond to the emergency in Mamasapano, he said.

Another, he said, was the question of the accountability of the government and MILF ceasefire panels.

Recto said, however, that the President erred by allowing Purisima to participate in the planning and execution of the SAF operation.

For that, complaints for the impeachment of Aquino may be filed in the House, but Recto said he did not think an impeachment complaint would prosper because the next presidential election was only months away.

Recto said that for him, it was more important for Aquino to take responsibility for the Mamasapano incident.

The disaster in Mamasapano is the “biggest challenge” to Aquino’s presidency, but it is not too late for him to fix things, Recto said.

House probe

The House held just one hearing, on Feb. 11, on the Mamasapano incident. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. ordered the suspension of further House hearings on Mamasapano until the release of the police report.

Even before the report was uploaded to the government websites last week, Belmonte had already hinted that the House might resume the Mamasapano probe when Congress returned from Lenten break on May 4.

At least 109 representatives have signed a letter to Belmonte demanding an inquiry to fill the gaps in the police report.

“While the [board of inquiry] report contained undeniable facts that point to Aquino’s accountability, it failed to investigate deeply the role of the US, and whether the statements of Gen. [Gregorio Pio] Catapang [Jr.] and Gen. [Edmundo] Pangilinan that they held back in consideration of the peace process actually came from an order by President Aquino himself,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

“The [board of inquiry] report remains incomplete because the main players in the operations, namely President Aquino, Purisima and the United States refused to participate in its investigation. The Mamasapano incident is not over. It will continue to fester as long as Malacañang refuse[s] to admit the truth and face the consequences of its acts,” he said.

House obligation

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, who will step down as member of the House by the end of this month, said the House was obligated as an oversight body to conduct a public investigation.

“I think it might not break new ground on the chain of command issue, but there is a big gap on the dimensions of US involvement, and here is where the House investigation can shed much-needed light,” Bello said.

In an interview on dzBB radio, Magdalo Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo said the President could have “overridden” the reasons cited by Pangilinan in wavering on providing artillery support to the surrounded SAF troops—the doctrine on the use of artillery fire; and the impact on the peace process.

“He has override authority on these two conditions as the Commander in Chief. These are not constitutional provisions that could not be broken. It’s a doctrine, not a law. The peace process has a policy on how to override this condition,” Acedillo said.

“The President was in the best and the right position to break the impasse for the AFP to act,” he said.

Bello said Pangilinan should not have been placed in such a position in the first place since the decision to help the SAF was “a political decision, a presidential responsibility.”

“Given the abdication of responsibility on the part of the President, General Pangilinan was forced to fill the gap. General Pangilinan may have made the wrong decision in hindsight, but for him there are extenuating circumstances. This is not the case when it comes to the President,” Bello said.

Aquino’s orders

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said Pangilinan was merely acting on the orders of the President to give primacy to the peace process.

“The President’s glaring silence on this point, noted as well by the [board of inquiry] report, is one of the key questions that remain unanswered—all the more reason for the House to resume its inquiry, as it can provide a public and transparent venue for raising these unanswered questions,” Tinio said.

Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop criticized the President for undermining the police finding that he broke the chain of command.

“The Palace statement is putting into question the credibility of the police force. He should just wait for the DOJ to determine his liability instead of questioning the [board of inquiry] findings,” Acop said.

Bello said the President’s reaction to the police report betrayed his determination to evade responsibility for Mamasapano.

“He is already in lawyer’s mode rather than presidential mode, maybe preparing for criminal cases that may be filed against him once he leaves office. It is sad that he is acting not as a President but as a defendant. He has been in this mode since Day 1 and it has severely eroded his credibility as our national leader,” Bello said.

Originally posted: 10:05 PM | Sunday, March 15th, 2015

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TAGS: Amin Baco, atrocity, Basit Usman, bloodshed, board of inquiry, carnage, Ceasefire, clash, Encounter, gun battle, House of Representatives, Marwan, Massacre, News, peace process, Ralph Recto, Romeo Acop, Senate, Walden Bello
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