Allies to stop ‘grandstanding’ lawmakers during Mamasapano probe
LAWMAKERS in the House of Representatives will stop critics of President Benigno Aquino III from using Tuesday’s probe on the “Oplan Exodus” as a venue for “grandstanding” to condemn the disastrous Mamasapano mission that left 67 persons dead last January 25.
Basilan Representative Jim Hataman-Salliman, who chairs the peace, reconciliation and unity committee which is one of the panels conducting the probe, said the committee would not invite President Aquino in their investigation on April 7 and 8 on the botched police operation that killed international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.
The lower House is expected to resume its probe after almost two months of indefinite suspension upon the prodding of the House leadership pending the results of the other investigations by the police and Senate.
Salliman said the panel would not allow lawmakers riding on the issue to air grandstanding statements.
“We have ground rules that just have to be followed and implemented… It was voted not to invite the President. We will be strict on the five minutes allocation to each congressman…,” Salliman said in a text message Monday.
This after the first hearing on the debacle Feb. 11 was described as a circus with outraged lawmakers upstaging each other in an emotional debate.
Salliman urged lawmakers to contain their emotions for a more objective and impartial investigation on the debacle.
“We do not want emotions in the hearing. We want to contribute (to the hearing) so we could conclude (the investigation),” Salliman said in Filipino.
He also denied that Malacanang wants to whitewash Tuesday’s probe, especially amid allegation of President Aquino’s involvement in “Oplan Exodus.”
President Aquino drew flak for refusing to accept responsibility for the debacle while heaping all the blame on sacked Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napenas for the miscoordinated operation that killed 44 SAF commandos, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and five civilians in a 12-hour gunbattle.
Some of Aquino’s critics were not amused with the conduct of what they claimed to be effectively stifling negative publicity of the President.
Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon said he would rather have a “circus” of a hearing if only for hard-hitting questions to be answered.
“The public would rather have a circus where hard questions are asked instead of sterile, formal proceedings. If the President gets pinned down because of the search for the truth, then so be it,” Ridon said in a text message.
Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan also hit Malacanang for blaming media organizations, which are just doing their job to cover the news.
“The President is just being true to its form. Putting the blame on others except himself… Why blame the media when they were just doing their job? It was not the coverage that was negative. The cover-up that ensued, the ineptness in dealing with angry SAF families, caused the negativity,” Ilagan said in a text message.
“Malacañang’s justification is a case of shooting the messenger, not the message,” she added.
An Aquino ally, Caloocan Representative Edgar Erice of the Liberal Party, said there is no need to invite the President because he has already answered all questions pertaining to his supposed role in the implementation of the covert mission.
He also said the President’s role had already been answered by the inquiry reports of the police Board of Inquiry and the Senate.
The BOI in its report said Aquino bypassed the police chain of command when he authorized Napeñas and resigned police chief Alan Purisima on the operation despite the latter’s suspension over corruption, while keeping acting police chief Leonardo Espina in the dark.
Meanwhile, the Senate panel led by Senator Grace Poe found Aquino “ultimately responsible” for giving his assent to authorize suspended Purisima, his long-time friend, to oversee “Oplan Exodus.”
Aquino had also said he was given wrong information at the height of the operation by Purisima himself, Erice said.
“He already said that he is ultimately responsible. He admitted that he coursed directives to suspended general Purisima and he was given wrong information regarding what is actually happened in the field,” Erice said.
“As far as I am concern, all the reports had already revealed the truth,” he added. AC
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