Aquino backtracks from ‘alternative truth’ stand
President Aquino on Monday appeared to have backtracked from the “alternative truth” emerging from the Mamasapano debacle, but insisted that the ongoing investigation was aimed at finding an explanation for the “tragedy” that claimed the lives of many.
Aquino told reporters in an interview in Iloilo City that what he wanted was to know “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
The President said the ongoing investigation and operations sought to determine whether the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) version of the Mamasapano clash was the complete story or whether the “alternative” story was more complete or could add to the “narrative” or whether both were wrong and there was a third version.
“We are not closing our minds, too, to the possibility that this ‘alternative’ [version] only wants to muddle the discussion. The bottom line is, how do we know the truth? We need testimonies and evidence and that is what we are getting now,” Aquino said.
“A tragedy took place. We lost so many men, why did this happen? That is the fundamental question,” he added.
The President said finding the truth about the Mamasapano debacle would help the government avoid a similar debacle in the future.
“For us to have the right solution, the manner of stating the problem should be correct. In our view, the plausibility of this alternative version should be investigated whether it is true or not,” Aquino said.
Sources from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the military told the Inquirer that it was the aide of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” who killed the Malaysian terrorist and that he was already dead when the SAF commandos arrived at his hut in the village of Pembalkan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, to arrest him early on Jan. 25.
Sources from the military and the MILF identified the killers of Marwan as his aides Datucan Singgagao and Candao Langalan.
The MILF, in its investigation report on the Mamasapano clash released in March, pointed out the inconsistencies in the SAF version, as shown by the picture of Marwan dead in his hut.
Among the inconsistencies is that Marwan’s body bore wounds that could have been inflicted only from a close range. Moreover, his hut and the immediate surroundings did not show any signs of a gun battle.
Asked what he thought of the MILF claim that Marwan was killed by his aides, President Aquino replied: “Again, if I mention details about it, it is like I am taking the side of one version and the bottom line here is there are many agencies tasked to help each other for us to find the evidence and the testimonies. Right now, for instance, we don’t have the witness who… allegedly have direct knowledge of what happened.”
The President disclosed the investigation at the Meet the Inquirer Multimedia forum last week, telling the editors and reporters of this paper that the picture of the dead Marwan raised more questions than answers.
On Monday in Iloilo, Aquino explained that the investigation was necessary because of “an allegation that the narrative is not correct.”
“So our job is to find out what is really the truth. (Is it) the first version, the alternative version, or a combination of both versions? Because, again I want to emphasize, we are not saying that we are certain that this ‘alternative version’ is the truth. We are not discounting the possibility that the alternative version is totally false,” he said.
Aquino, however, declined to give further information about the investigation.
He said letting out certain information could endanger the lives of potential witnesses.
“What is important is finding out the truth,” he said.
The investigation has hurt the PNP, which claimed its SAF commandos killed Marwan in a raid on the wanted terrorist’s lair in Mamasapano.
Forty-four SAF commandos were killed in a daylong gun battle with Moro rebels after the covert operation was discovered by residents of the town that was controlled by the MILF.
On Monday, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez called on people who claimed there was an “alternative truth” to Mamasapano to show proof.
“For the people saying there is an alternative version of the events, perhaps they should provide evidence, because 44 of my people were killed,” Marquez told reporters.
The claim about an alternative version had hurt the PNP, Marquez said.
“Forty-four people died and then this comes out. It hurts,” he said.
“You saw the findings of the [PNP board of inquiry. There were] no holds barred. So people who have other versions of these events should come forward,” he said.
Marquez said, however, that the PNP would “cooperate with efforts to ferret out the truth,” including reopening the Senate inquiry into Mamasapano and the investigations by the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice.
House leaders on Monday shut the door on calls to reopen the congressional inquiry into Mamasapano.
Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, head of the House committee on public order and safety, said his panel had already completed its report on Mamasapano based on testimony and evidence presented during three public hearings held a few months ago.
Ferrer said House leaders did not see any reason to reopen the probe despite President Aquino’s disclosure of an alternative version of the Mamasapano debacle.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano questioned why the President would come out with this crucial information on the real killer of terrorist Marwan after Congress, the Senate, the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Human Rights had completed their investigations of the incident.—With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Gil C. Cabacungan and Christine O. Avendaño