Cabinet revamp sought to help Aquino recover from Mamasapano debacle | Inquirer News
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Cabinet revamp sought to help Aquino recover from Mamasapano debacle

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 04:40 PM March 16, 2015

MANILA, Philippines — An administration ally in the House of Representatives has acknowledged that President Aquino may have lost political capital in the fallout over the Mamasapano debacle, and suggests a Cabinet revamp to recover.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said executive reassignments and other changes might help quell the erosion of Aquino’s popular support following the release of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) report showing the latter broke the police chain of command that led to the tragic fate of the January 25 counterterrorism operation.

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“Somehow, it will weaken the presidency with much political capital lost; however he can recover by instituting changes, and I think a Cabinet revamp is needed,” Erice said.

But the lawmaker said he did not believe Aquino could be held liable for the deaths of 44 police commandos, 17 Muslim rebels, and three civilians in the clash in Maguindanao province, but added he might have committed mistakes.

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“I believe that he can tap anybody he trusts to help him in accomplishing things. It might be an error in judgment,” Erice said.

“However, I believe that [former Philippine National Police director general] Purisima has deliberately manipulated situations to keep [Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and police officer in charge Leonardo Espina] out of the loop,” he said, referring to other findings in the BOI report.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he expected that the BOI report would draw a flurry of criticisms against the President but with little to no effect.

“His opponents, critics and the KSP (“kulang sa pansin,” or attention grabbers) will continue to harass him. To no avail,” said Belmonte, vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party.

Another LP stalwart, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, admitted that the Mamasapano issue “will undoubtedly affect the Aquino administration in the last 500 days.”

“But I’m sure that many facets of good governance will show the sterling performance of President Aquino, particularly in the ant-corruption campaign, improvement of the economy…” he said.

Released to the public on Friday, the BOI report concluded that Aquino had direct knowledge of the operation and opted to break the chain of command by allowing Purisima, who had been under suspension at the time, to take charge.

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Oplan Exodus was a top-secret operation to hunt down two international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.

It succeeded in killing one of the targets, the Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, or “Marwan,” but at the cost of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, who died in a clash with fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when they were withdrawing from the area.

Some 17 MILF men and three civilians were also killed in the encounter that has triggered wide outrage.

The BOI recommended the filing of criminal or administrative cases against “relevant government officials, the MILF, and other individuals” found to have been liable in the clash.

Another critic, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, interim president of the United Nationalist Alliance party of Vice President Jejomar Binay, said the question of whether the Mamasapano debacle had weakened the presidency was not an issue at all.

“Whether he is popular or a lame duck, the most important is he is not above the law,” he said. “This incident has proven that the President is no saint and ‘tuwid na daan (straight path)” is a self-righteous slogan, to hide the anomalies of the administration,” he said.

Since the President is immune from suit, “the criminal liability of the President regarding this will only be known at the end of his term,” according to Tiangco.

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the BOI report left her “very much disappointed.”

“We didn’t get critical information, and it diverted from responsibility of the President,” she told a forum.

Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate, however, acknowledged that there were good results from the BOI report, including its conclusion that Mr. Aquino broke the chain of command, and allowed the suspended Purisima to direct the operation.

But the BOI report only glossed over the involvement of the United States, saying it was limited to intelligence sharing and medical evacuation, he added.

Zarate said this and other issues should be more thoroughly discussed in the House probe on the Mamasapano tragedy.

Some 109 lawmakers in the lower chamber have signed a petition to resume the investigation, which was aborted after only one hearing in February.

RELATED STORIES

Aquino claims responsibility for Mamasapano tragedy

Aquino, Napeñas violated PNP chain of command—BOI report

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TAGS: Alan Purisima, Ben Evardone, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Carlos Isagani Zarate, covert operations, Edgar Erice, fact finding, Feliciano Belmonte, Getulio Napeñas, inquiry, investigation, Liberal Party, Luzviminda Ilagan, Mamasapano mission, Massacre, massacre of policemen, News, Philippine National Police, Philippine president, Politics, Special Action Force, Toby Tiangco
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