SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano has assured the bereaved families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members killed during the January 2015 Mamasapano massacre that they will get justice under the Duterte administration.
Cayetano made the assurance after President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday held a dialogue with families of the slain police commandos, a day before the second-year anniversary of the encounter in Mindanao between the SAF troopers and some Muslim rebels.
The senator was with the President to listen to the sentiments of the families who were invited to the Palace.
“In this anniversary, we will remember the heroes who gave their lives two years ago. It is a sad and glorious day. Ang tinanim ng inyong mga kamag-anak ay dugo para magkaroon ng hustisya at kapayapaan,” Cayetano told the families of SAF troopers.
“Ang inyong mga kamag-anak, they had a big contribution to the Philippines that is about to come. A Philippines where lahat tayo ay Pilipino, lahat tayo ay nagmamahalan,” he added.
Cayetano said two years have passed since the bloodbath, but up to now, justice continues to be elusive, and those responsible for the botched operation have not been held accountable.
He criticized the previous Aquino administration for its apparent failure to provide the assistance that was promised to the victims’ families.
“Ang isa pong kinasasama ng loob ng ating mga naulila ay parang OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) din. Sila ay tinatawag na bayani, yet, hindi man lang sinigurado ang pag-deliver sa kanila ng mga pangako,” he said.
“(This incident) produced a man, President Rodrigo Duterte, who understands both peace and war, who understands the barrel of the gun, but also understands how to put together people in peace. I am confident that in his administration you (will) get justice,” Cayetano said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday said the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Mamasapano incident may help shed light on many unanswered questions on the controversy.
Aguirre said he fully supports the announcement of President Duterte to create an independent commission to investigate the operation designed to get wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan but later turned into a running gunbattle between SAF commandos and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups.
Duterte said he would appoint men of integrity, including Supreme Court justices, to compose the panel, similar to the one headed by retired Justice Corazon Agrava that investigated the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino on August 21, 1983 upon his return from self-exile in the United States.
“Mahirap talaga magkaroon ng closure dito dahil marami ang mga katanungang hindi nasagot sa mga hearings noon, so, siguro sa pamamagitan nito (commission) baka luminaw ‘yang mga kasagutan,” Aguirre said.
He said among the questions that were not fully answered during the hearings were the delay in the provision of artillery support to the engaged commandos as well as the delay in the deployment of reinforcement.
Aguirre also questioned why Aquino was not included in the case before the Ombudsman which on Tuesday indicted former PNP Director General Alan Purisima and former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas.
Purisima is serving a suspension order issued by the Ombudsman at the time he and Napeñas planned the operation dubbed “Oplan Exodus” to get Marwan.
Senate President Koko Pimentel and Senators Ping Lacson and Grace Poe yesterday said it is the President’s prerogative to re-open the Mamasapano incident.
“’Yun ang order daw ni Presidente, to reopen (the Mamasapano probe). It is an executive action. That’s the judgment of the President. Hindi siya siguro satisfied (sa resulta ng imbestigasyon). He wants to find out some other things,” said Pimentel in a briefing. “Tama po iyan kasi executive action din naman ang what led to the deaths of the SAF44, so dapat meron din silang closure diyan sa issue na iyan,” he said.
Lacson said:”If the President feels kulang ang ginawang investigation ng (PNP Board of Inquiry), including the investigation conducted by the Senate, that is always his prerogative.”
“If he feels hindi kumpleto ang pag-render ng justice sa naiwan ng SAF 44, that’s his prerogative to create a commission and conduct further investigation,” added Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
“Given the nature and inherent limitations of a legislative investigation, it is the prerogative of the President to create a commission for its reinvestigation that may hopefully add to what had been unearthed previously given the greater powers of the Executive and under much different political circumstances,” said Poe.