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Miffed Enrile dares Aquino to debate

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS

SENATE Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday challenged President Aquino to a public debate on the Mamasapano massacre, adding that the Chief Executive could be hauled to court once he steps down from office on June 30 for his involvement in last year’s botched police operation that led to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

Malacañang, however, brushed off Enrile’s challenge, saying the opposition senator had an opportunity to present his case during the recent reopening of the Senate probe into the tragic Mamasapano clash but failed.

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Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said “it is best that our people focus their energies instead on how to sustain the momentum of (the Aquino administration’s) reform and transformation efforts that have gained their respect and the admiration of the global community.”

Enrile called for a debate in a radio interview Sunday, insisting that Mr. Aquino was to blame for the death of the SAF members who were on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and two other terrorists in an upland area in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.

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“Again, I say to all of you listening now, whoever you may be, even if you’re the President of the Philippines, down to the lowest strata of society, all of you, if you wish to debate the Mamasapano case, just tell me when, and I’ll debate with you—especially if you’re the President,” the 91-year-old Enrile said in Filipino in the interview over dzBB radio.

“Lalampaushin niya ako o lalampasuhin ko siya (Will he trounce me or will I trounce him)?” Enrile said, adding that he would also debate Palace spokespersons.

Countering comments that the reopening of the Senate investigation last week did not bring out any new evidence, Enrile said he had in his possession an “audit operation report” that the authorities had been “suppressing.”

He said rumors that the audit report had been changed were “true” but did not elaborate.

Enrile also contended that contrary to Palace allies’ line, Napeñas was not to blame for the ill-fated police mission, lauding the police general who neutralized Marwan after nine unsuccessful attempts by the police and military.

Should Napeñas be charged for Mamasapano, Enrile said the former SAF chief’s lawyers should make sure the charge sheet included Mr. Aquino.

Enrile said he intended to bring these matters to the public during the election campaign which starts this month.

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He also said the committee report submitted last year by committee chair Sen. Grace Poe had just made a conclusion without any basis that President Aquino was ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano debacle. He asked media to ask Poe the basis for the committee’s conclusion that Mr. Aquino was responsible.

“What are the facts? My God, in criminal law you deal with facts not conclusions. If you don’t know that, my God I am sorry for her (Poe) and for this country,” Enrile said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said in the same radio program that Mr. Aquino had actually told Napeñas to inform others about the mission as well.

It was his opinion, contrary to that of Enrile’s, that the President could not be held criminally liable for the Mamasapano slaughter.

Enrile said he did not think justice for the SAF 44 could come at this time. But he said that President Aquino would face prosecution for sure for the Mamasapano debacle when the latter is no longer president.

Enrile said he would no longer be a senator by then, as his term also ends on June 30, but added that he was still a “lawyer for life.”

“My advice to the President and his lawyers is to study (the eight points he had raised against Mr. Aquino during last week’s Senate hearing) because that will be the basis for the charges to be filed against him in the future,” Enrile said.

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TAGS: Juan Ponce Enrile, Mamasapano massacre, Nation, news, President Aquino, SAF 44
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