New SAF 44 probe like ‘flogging a dead horse’
An administration stalwart said the reopening of the investigation of the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos was like “flogging a dead horse,” but their sacked commander welcomed a chance to continue his interrupted testimony.
The sacked SAF chief, Getulio Napeñas, has no idea of the new information that had prompted Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to call for the reopening of the Senate inquiry on the slaughter of the elite force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, 2015.
But Napeñas said he thought the accounts on slaughter of the police troopers at the hands of Moro rebels following the raid that killed Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were incomplete.
“There is information that has not come out,” Napeñas told reporters Wednesday.
“I welcome the inquiry, that’s good so the new information or any facts of the incident or those not known by the people would come out,” said Napeñas, who is running for senator in the May elections and was among candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance who accompanied Vice President Jejomar Binay during a visit Wednesday to Bustos, Bulacan province.
Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas, chair of the Liberal Party (LP) membership and organizing committee, said reopening the Mamasapano inquiry was only “political gimmickry” with the sole purpose of giving media mileage to some 2016 election aspirants.
Although he did not name anyone, the lawmaker appeared to be referring to Sen. Grace Poe, a presidential candidate who led the probe as chair of the Senate’s public order committee last year.
“Stop flogging a dead horse. We have to move on and let the lessons of Mamasapano guide us for the future,” Treñas said. “This is overacting.”
Senators Gregorio Honasan II and Nancy Binay who joined the Vice President in the Bulacan visit also welcomed the probe. Honasan is the vice presidential running mate of Binay.
Napeñas said that if invited, he would attend the Senate hearing scheduled for Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the massacre.
In requesting a reopening of the inquiry, Enrile had said that when he was detained at the Philippine National Police hospital on plunder charges in connection with his pork barrel funds, he had conversations with SAF survivors.
Enrile said in a privilege speech last November that it seemed there was a “paralysis” in the government as the massacre unfolded. He said he vowed to act on the concerns of the survivors and their families.
Napeñas, whose campaign poster is “Justice for SAF 44,” said he had no idea what Enrile’s new information was about. But he said he would raise some points at the hearing.
He lamented that during the Senate hearings last year, “there were times I was cut off when I was speaking” and that the SAF was not given a fair shake.
He said he hoped the new hearing would be conducted in an “open and free flow manner.”
Honasan said the inquiry would be a good thing especially for the SAF survivors who want to know the truth about the incident. Honasan also hoped the SAF issue would not be used for political partisanship.
The senator said the final Senate committee report on Mamasapano was not sufficient. He said there was no clear definition of chain of command, specifically who should be held accountable in the incident.
There was also the need for “a coordinating mechanism between the police and the military because lives are involved,” Honasan said.
Senator Binay said the Senate committee report on Mamasapano was “technically not a Senate report” because it did not reach the plenary.
In a press conference, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang was unsure what more it could contribute to the investigation. He said that in various statements, President Aquino had taken responsibility for the Mamasapano episode.
“We must remember that the President has also addressed the concerns of not only the immediate families of the SAF 44, but also the extended families who sought assistance from the President and we have addressed and we continue to address those concerns,” Lacierda said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a separate statement, urged the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to complete the peace process with the MILF.
“It is the responsibility of our lawmakers to support this process while they perform their other functions, including having this investigation,” he said.
In a statement Wednesday, the government chief peace negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, said the reopening of the inquiry would be an “opportunity to further clarify our long-standing protocols on the conduct of law enforcement operations.”
She vowed that the peace efforts would be “stubbornly pursued” this year, despite the challenges primarily brought by the Mamasapano debacle.
“Many will look back at the year 2015 and see the Mamasapano tragedy of Jan. 25 as the monkey wrench that was thrown into the clockwork and set back most of what we have set out to do,” Ferrer said.
In an interview with the media on Tuesday after his New Year’s call at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said: “For me, this has already been investigated. Such a long time was already invested. Talking as a former legislator, there are a lot more pending discussions in [the House] and the Senate; important bills that should be looked into, fast-tracked and passed.”
“We will fully cooperate with the investigation. Our aim is, of course, to seek justice for the ‘SAF 44’ heroes, and the welfare of the families,” the PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, told reporters Wednesday.
Mayor, however, agreed with Sarmiento’s assessment. “We already conducted investigations and we stand by them,” he said. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Jaymee T. Gamil