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‘New Mamasapano witnesses unreliable’

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 12:06 AM October 13, 2015

INSTEAD of reliable witnesses, individuals of “dubious backgrounds and motives” showed up before the Department of Justice (DOJ) special investigation team during the second phase of its probe into the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre and presented an “unorthodox” version of the bloodbath.

In a 120-page report made public Monday, the joint National Bureau of Investigation-National Prosecution Service (NBI-NPS) probe panel said several persons volunteered information about the massacre but gave suspicious testimonies.

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The panel said the accounts of the witnesses were taken down between June and August in Manila in the course of its investigation into the deaths of nine members of the Special Action Force’s (SAF) 84th Seaborne Unit, who were among the 44 SAF men killed in the operation to arrest Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”

The probe’s second phase had yielded no leads to those responsible for the deaths in the SAF unit, hence, no one was recommended to be charged.

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The investigating team earlier filed charges of direct assault with murder and theft against 90 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups for the deaths of 35 members of SAF’s 55th Special Action Company (SAC) in the cornfields of Barangay Tukanalipao.

The team met with the supposed witnesses “who presented themselves,” in the hope that “they could identify any or some of those” who attacked the 84th Seaborne men.

“Mindful of its mandate to ferret out the truth surrounding Oplan Exodus, the team was constrained to patiently listen to the unorthodox version floated by these individuals,” said the report, referring to the name of the operation to arrest Marwan.

“Instead of identifying assailants, however, these persons tried to persuade the team about an all-together ‘alternative’ version of the events at Pidsandawan on Jan. 25, 2015, and on prior dates,” the report said.

The team “quietly vetted these persons as well as their narrations” but found that their stories may well be fiction: “…[T]hey all utterly failed in terms of credibility, lucidity and chronology. Worse, these supposed ‘witnesses’ refused to be deposed under oath.”

The testimonies left the investigators so incredulous, they opted not to make their “alternative” story public and instead recorded the details in a “secret memorandum” submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

“Because these individuals were clearly unreliable and their allegations wholly unverifiable and not supported by any shred of independent testimonial and documentary evidence, the team saw fit not to include their wild allegations in this second report,” the report said.

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It is unclear if the “unorthodox” account was the same “alternative version” that President Aquino had hinted at last month—that Marwan’s own aides had killed him during the assault. Mr. Aquino later declared that the story was not true.

The investigators said that besides the volunteer “witnesses,” individuals “who described themselves as “handlers” or “facilitators” of “witnesses” were similarly met by the NBI-NPS special investigation team for “exploratory” interviews.”

It said the team “exerted all diligent efforts to find at least one credible witness who could testify as to the identity and criminal liability of the persons involved” in the 84th SAF deaths. But no one was found.

As this developed, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday pressed the Senate to reopen its investigation into the Mamasapano massacre, saying that several questions remained unanswered.

“I will ask for the reopening (of the Senate probe) so we can ask questions on the participation of each government agency involved,” Enrile told reporters after the deliberations on the proposed budget of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in the Senate.

Enrile said he was wondering about the gaps in information.

“I just want to be informed…I was wondering why there was silence about a very telling tragedy that happened,” he said. With a report by Niña P. Calleja

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