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Duterte re-opens Mamasano massacre probe; ex-Pres. Aquino blamed

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(Photo from pcoo.gov.ph)

 

MANILA (via PhilAmPress) ― A day before the second anniversary of the botched Philippine National Police operations in Mamasapano, President Rodrigo Duterte met with relatives of the 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force who were killed and ordered a new probe into the massacre as he scored former President Benigno Aquino and his administration for not telling the truth about the operations.

 

Later, Aquino broke his silence about the issue and again denied any responsibility in the debacle as he laid the blame once more to former PNP SAF director Getulio Napenas Jr.

 

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, in response, said Mr. Aquino was lying and should prepare to defend himself in the re-investigation of the incident.

 

Duterte directed PNP chief, Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa to lead a renewed investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the ill-fated Battle of Mamasapano where the 44 SAF commandos lost their lives even as the Chief Executive toyed with the idea of creating an independent commission to do the probe.

 

The President issued the order during his meeting in Malacañang of the SAF 44's surviving relatives. He gave Dela Rosa 30 days to wrap up the investigation.

 

This developed as the Ombudsman formally filed graft and usurpation of public function charges before the Sandiganbayan against former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former PNP Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas Jr. in relation to the bloody Mamasapano incident.

 

In the case information for the usurpation charge, the Ombudsman said Purisima, while under preventive suspension, "unlawfully and feloniously" participated in the planning and deliberations as regards Oplan Exodus.

 

At the time of the police raid on January 25, 2015, Purisima was serving a six-month preventive suspension by the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous contract the PNP entered into with a courier service company.

 

The suspension order was effective from December 9, 2014 to June 10, 2015.

 

Purisima also constantly asked and received updates from Napeñas, the overall commander of the operation, even though they both knew the former was under preventive suspension, the Ombudsman said.

 

Moreover, the Ombudsman said in its graft case information that Purisima "willfully, unlawfully and criminally" influenced Napeñas to violate the PNP Chain of Command, Purisima's preventive suspension order, and then-officer-in-charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina's order for Purisima and other suspended police officers to "cease and desist" from performing duties under their respective offices.

 

The said violations were committed when Purisima gave instructions, received reports and recommendations from, and approved the actions of Napeñas for Oplan Exodus, and when they eased out Espina and then-Interior of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas from the operation.

 

At the time of the police raid on January 25, 2015, Purisima was serving a six-month preventive suspension by the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous contract the PNP entered into with a courier service company.

 

The suspension order was effective from December 9, 2014 to June 10, 2015.

 

Purisima also constantly asked and received updates from Napeñas, the overall commander of the operation, even though they both knew the former was under preventive suspension, the Ombudsman said.

 

Moreover, the Ombudsman said in its graft case information that Purisima "willfully, unlawfully and criminally" influenced Napeñas to violate the PNP Chain of Command, Purisima's preventive suspension order, and then-officer-in-charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina's order for Purisima and other suspended police officers to "cease and desist" from performing duties under their respective offices.

 

The said violations were committed when Purisima gave instructions, received reports and recommendations from, and approved the actions of Napeñas for Oplan Exodus, and when they eased out Espina and then-Interior of Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas from the operation.

 

Duterte said that given his way, he would award the PNP's Medal of Valor to all 44 Special Action Force commandos who were killed during the infamous Mamasapano secret operation two years ago.

 

The President said that the highest honor he can give to the gallant officers "who were fed to the lion's den to be eaten by death" was to award them the Medal of Valor.

 

To this end, he directed the PNP chief Dela Rosa and Interior Undersecretary Catalino Cuy to carefully look into the matter.

 

“So I am asking Dela Rosa and you guys, Lito, to study the matter very carefully and look that up. You know, if it’s sauce for the gander, it’s also sauce for the goose. I’m directing you now and give me the result within, probably at the end of the month,” the President said.

 

“There is no need to investigate; the records are all there anyway. And if you think as a soldier that the 44 deserve the Valor, then recommend it and I would give it to them, all of the soldiers, the 44,” Duterte said to applause from the loved ones of the SAF-44.

 

Parameters for Medal of Valor include gallantry/acts of heroism or heroic acts which means dashing courage and noble-minded behavior and intrepidity which is characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance in the face of overwhelming enemy force.

 

Under Republic Act 9049, a Medal of Valor awardee gets a monthly gratuity of Php 20,000 separate and distinct from any salary or pension.

 

In the event of death of the awardee, the same shall accrue in equal shares and with the right of accretion to the surviving spouse until she remarries and to the children, legitimate or adopted or illegitimate until they reach the age of 18 or until they marry.

 

The gratuity shall not be included in the computation of gross income and shall be exempt from taxation.

 

The bereaved families of the 44 SAF troopers have been asking why only two commandos were awarded the Medal of Valor by former President Benigno Aquino III.

 

Besides looking into this, Duterte also promised the families that he would set a day of remembrance for the troopers.

 

“I will set a day. It will be known as ‘A Day of Remembrance’ for the SAF-44,” Duterte said to another round of applause.


In calling for a new investigation, Duterte, addressing the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, in Filipino, pointed out that all of the previous investigations have left a void, with "maraming issues at tanong (many issues and questions) unresolved.

 

 "Unless we address the issues, they [the survivors] will bring to their grave the hurt and agony ... You fed the soldiers to the lion's den. Hindi na lumabas ang totoo (The truth has not come out)," Duterte stressed.

 

President Duterte claimed that the Mamasapano mission on January 25, 2015 aimed at neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was led by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States.

 

Duterte said the US led the operation to get Marwan, noting that it was the Americans who supposedly processed the Malaysian terrorist’s finger.

 

He scored the administration of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for not telling the truth about the mission.

 

“And why was it under wraps? Bakit niyo tinago na (Why did you hide the fact that) actually it was an operation of the CIA?” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang before widows and other relatives of the slain elite cops.

 

“Kaya far from the highway, nandoon ang chopper and you had to delude the nation that after the Marwan finger was cut, it was delivered dito sa Crame [police headquarters] for the forensics, when as a matter of fact, ang helicopter, ang nagdala doon sa just for validation, to confirm that it was indeed Marwan. (That's why far from the highway, your chopper was there and you had to delude the nation that after the Marwan finger was cut, it was delivered here in Crame for the forensics, when as a matter of fact, your helicopter was the one that brought it just for validation, to confirm that it was indeed Marwan.),” Duterte said. 

 

Pressed for time and in the middle of a battlefield, SAF troopers had no choice but to cut off Marwan’s finger so they would be able to prove the terrorist’s death.

 

A DNA sample taken from Marwan matched that of Marwan's brother who is in Guantanamo Bay.

 

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly conducted the DNA test.

A Philippine Senate report into the raid hs concluded the United States played a "substantial" role by providing training, equipment and intelligence to the Filipino forces.

 
The SAF mission, dubbed Oplan Exodus, was launched to arrest Marwan inside the rebel territory in Maguindanao even as the government was in a peace talks with the Muslim rebels. It left 44 SAF commandos dead, while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) claimed 14 dead on their side.

 

Two civilians were also killed during the operations.

 

The SAF commandos were ranged against hundreds of combined fighters of the MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.


Duterte said he would be forming a commission for the re-investigation, to be composed of "men of integrity and honor," with some members from the Supreme Court.



"I will not recommend anyone close to me," he said, adding that they will all be "independent in all aspects, free to summon anybody, honor the process."

 

 “I will create a commission of seven like the Agrava Commission during the time of (Ferdinand) Marcos. I will appoint men of integrity and honor. If possible, then I will choose mostly the justices of the Supreme Court, maybe a few from the civilian sector, maybe a lawyer,” Duterte said.

 

President Duterte said that the said Commission could come out with the truth before the end of the year.


Duterte said that the Mamasapano operations was "an American adventure." He alluded to a Central Intelligence Agency operation, and bashed the "misplaced loyalty, to the Americans" of certain officials. "Stop it!"

 

This developed as the House of Representatives is also mulling to reopen the investigation to focus on the alleged involvement of American soldiers in the operation.

Bayan Muna partylist Representative Carlos Zarate filed House Resolution No. 491 calling for the new probe, stressing that there is need to "further investigate significant issues ... on the extent of the intervention, involvement and participation by the United States' security forces in the said operation."

Zarate noted that during the hearings conducted by the House, sacked PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas had declined to divulge details about the turnover of the index finger of Marwan to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, "which was a clear violation of police protocol regarding chain of custody on evidence."

Despite the results of separate investigations by the Philippine National Police's Board of Inquiry (BOI), Congress and the Commission on Human Rights, Zarate said many questions remain unanswered, including: 1) who ultimately ordered the botched operation; 2) where the USD 5 million reward money went; 3) whether or not there was an order for military forces to stand down; and, (4) what clearly is the U.S. role in Oplan Exodus.

 

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