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No new evidence on Mamasapano–NBI

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it had no new evidence in the Mamasapano massacre that led to the death of 44 police commandos in January last year, but declined to comment on whether a reopening of the Senate investigation into the debacle was justified.

“Except for what we presented in the report we submitted, our investigators have not found new evidence or new witnesses to the Mamasapano incident,” Virgilio Mendez, NBI director told the Inquirer.

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Mendez, however, declined to comment on whether or not a new Senate investigation into the Mamasapano incident set to begin on Jan. 25 was warranted.

Opposition Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had moved to reopen the investigation into the Mamasapano massacre, saying that there were still questions that needed to be answered, especially regarding the involvement of various government agencies in the operation.

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Malacañang has denounced as “politically motivated” the move to reopen the investigation into the ostensibly secret police operation to capture a wanted Malaysian terrorist that ended in a huge loss of police lives, as well as of Muslim rebels and civilians.

“It’s not our place to say if a new Senate inquiry is necessary, but we will fully cooperate if we are called and will present the results of our investigation,” Mendez said.

Police officials had said that despite the loss of many members of the Special Action Force (SAF), the operation did succeed in getting its target, Malaysian terrorist Zukilfi bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”

 

Alternative versions

Mendez said speculation about another version of the incident—that it was not the SAF but  the aides of the slain terrorist who were actually the ones who killed Marwan—could not be validated.

“All of this is just speculation and we have not found any evidence that would contradict the testimony of the survivors,” Mendez said.

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He also said that investigators assigned to continue the investigation into the incident had reported to him their difficulty in finding more witnesses.

The NBI director said that investigators faced “utter silence” from supposed witnesses.

“People in the area refuse to talk to us and we have not found new witnesses apart from the ones we already had,” the NBI director said.

One witness, identified by the alias “Marathon” in the NBI report, had named field commanders from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and from the Bangsamoro Islamic freedom Fighters (BIFF) as having been involved in the killing of the police commandos.

Charges filed

Based on the joint investigation by the NBI and National Prosecution Service, the government filed various charges against 90 members of the MILF, the breakaway BIFF and private individuals for the deaths of at least 35 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25 last year.

The rebel MILF, which lost 18 fighters in the encounter, countered that the government forces had violated the peace agreement by failing to inform them of the police operation in their territory, leading to the unexpected firefight.

 

Stalled BBL

The Mamasapano incident led to heated debates that put the Aquino administration’s peace negotiations with the MILF in controversial light.  It is often cited as a major factor that has delayed the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would give the Islamic rebel fighters an enlarged and more empowered homeland in Mindanao in line with a new framework for peace drawn up between representatives of both sides in Kuala Lumpur .

The Senate committee on local governments has submitted a revised version of the BBL, rewriting about 80 percent of the original draft endorsed by Malacañang.

The MILF recently warned that the Philippine government’s “habitual noncompliance” with obligations discussed in the peace process could only breed more radicals that would threaten the security not only of Mindanao but also the rest of the country.

In a statement last week, the MILF cited the nonpassage of the BBL as one of the obligations that the government was having a difficult time complying with, and “one that makes these radicals laugh.”

Government’s “habitual noncompliance with obligations directly provides food to the radicals’ appetite, who after all want the peace negotiations to fail,” the MILF said.

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TAGS: Mamasapano massacre, National Bureau of Investigation, NBI, SAF 44, Special Action Force, Virgilio Mendez
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