SENATORS had mixed reactions to the reopening of the controversial Mamasapano massacre in 2015 which took the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
A possible grilling of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for his role in the Mamasapano incident is expected after Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, said “there will be no special cow” and nobody will be exempted from the investigation.
Gordon said members of the families of some of the fallen SAF 44 sought him out sometime last February and asked for a new probe in the Senate.
According to Gordon, the former President must be given a chance to air his side as he challenged former President Aquino to be man enough to face the hearing and face the consequence of his actions and decisions.
Gordon cited former President Fidel Ramos as an example who allowed himself to be scrutinized by senators and squarely answered issues being thrown against him that time in connection with the P7.3 billion Centennial Expo project in Angeles City, Pampanga. The former president was accused of unlawful realigning of funds for the project.
Gordon expressed belief that far more serious charges other than graft and usurpation of authority should have been filed by the Ombudsman against former President Aquino like multiple homicide or reckless imprudence, citing the fact that he was there monitoring the situation in Zamboanga City where he flew in on the day of the operation, where he was supposedly inspecting a bombing incident.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada expressed strong support for the possible reopening of the case saying that Aquino should face and answer the charges being hurled against him.
At the same time, Ejercito said this will also give the former president a chance to clear his name.
“We do not intend to focus on former President Aquino but there are those saying that command responsibility should have been observed. We want to know the truth and give justice also to the death of the gallant SAF 44,” Ejercito said.
Senator Grace Poe, who chaired the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that conducted the investigation last 2015 and reopened again at the instance of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on January 27, 2016 said the recommendation that they made, as far as she is concerned, is already sufficient.
She however said that the decision to reopen the Mamasapano inquiry is the prerogative of the chairman of the blue ribbon committee, Senator Gordon. Poe however wanted to be clarified regarding the objectives of Senator Gordon in putting forward such proposal.
“Whatever new and relevant information that can be unearthed from this inquiry, in aid of legislation, will be beneficial not only to the families of the SAF 44, but also to the Filipino people,” she said.
Poe in her committee report which was signed by the majority of senators said President Aquino was given inaccurate information but that he was ultimately responsible for the mission for giving assent and failing to stop then suspended Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima from committing usurpation of authority.
The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs per its Committee Report No. 120 of March 18, 2015 stated the following:
“Based on the same set of circumstances and evidence, the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs did not find President Aquino criminally liable for violation of Article 177 of the RPC and Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Committee recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against former PNP chief Alan Purisima for violation of Article 177 of the RPC, for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and for indirect contempt.
The Committee also recommended the filing of administrative charges against former SAF Director Getulio Napenas for grave misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence in the conduct of official duties and for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”
Poe said the Mamasapano operation is a legal operation, even if the operation failed as a result of poor and delayed decision and actions as she clarified that it was the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) that killed the SAF 44 and not former President Aquino.
Poe said she sympathizes with the families of the fallen SAF 44 that had the former President acted more swiftly and relied less on a suspended PNP chief, and if reinforcements were sent more quickly the deaths of SAF commandos could have been avoided or minimized.
Right to silence
“We should be prepared, however, for the possibility that when called to testify, President Aquino will invoke his right not to talk about the case as it is already being handled by the court.” Poe said.
“Whatever disagreement anyone has with the determination of the Ombudsman, let us give her office the opportunity to review the same through the processes allowed by law and remedies given to the parties in the case.” She added.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon supported the argument of Poe saying it is expected for the former President to invoke his right against self-incrimination.