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Senate eyes new Mamasapano probe


A possible grilling of former President Aquino for his role in the Mamasapano debacle in 2015 that cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos became a distinct possibility yesterday as Sen. Richard Gordon indicated his intention to pursue the re-opening of the Senate probe on the incident.
In the report of the initial investigation on the botched Oplan Exodus that targeted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan conducted by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs which then has Poe as chairman, Aquino was deemed to be ultimately accountable for the failed police operation.
The probe was already reopened once at the instance of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. In the January 27, 2016hearing, Enrile proved that Aquino “compartmented” with then suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima and then SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas the top secret operation to hide it from security and other government officials.

The Senate’s planned reinvestigation appears inevitable even as the Office of the Ombudsman already moved to have criminal charges filed against Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas for usurpation of authority.
“Yes if I have to (invite him, I will). Nobody will be exempted from this,” Gordon said in a radio interview.
But Gordon’s plan was immediately opposed by Aquino ally Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, saying there’s no need for either the blue ribbon or justice and human rights committees of the Senate to take up the issue anew especially since conduct of a trial will already be underway following the Ombudsman’s recommendations.   
“It’s within the authority of the committee if they want to reinvestigate but since there is already a case filed, of course the right against self-incrimination will apply or be applicable in this instance. Whatever statements said in the Senate can be used against those who testified,” Drilon said.
Drilon bucks plan to reinvestigate
“Let us not forget that first of all, there’s already a committee report. What would be the purpose for reopening of the inquiry? For what? In aid of legislation? If it is in aid of legislation there should be enough information from the long hearings held in the past Congress. The records available in the Senate are enough for us any senator to enable to form or draft any proposed legislation,” he said.
“But the call would be for the majority to make. We are in the minority. They can always outvote us. I’m just expressing an opinion there is no need for another hearing, it will serve no purpose,” Drilon added.
But even before the Ombudsman came out with its recommendations, Gordon said he already had plans of calling for a reinvestigation on the failed Oplan Exodus in Jan. 2015 especially after members of the families of some of the fallen SAF 44 sought him out sometime last February and asked for a new round of probe in the Senate.
Gordon emphasized he has nothing against Aquino on this matter as he merely wanted Aquino air his side on the issue which the senator said should have been done by the former president when the matter was being investigated by the Senate committee on public order under then Sen. Grace Poe.
Gordon to Noy: ‘Man up’
“He has to man up and face the consequences. He should have gone (to testify in the hearing) right away and gave his side during the probe of (Sen.) Grace Poe,” he said.
Gordon said Aquino should have done what former President Fidel Ramos did, despite being a sitting president, allowing himself to be scrutinized by senators to answer issues being thrown at him at that time.
The senator was apparently referring to the Senate’s probe on the  P7.3 billion Centennial Expo project in Angeles, Pampanga where Ramos was accused for the alleged unlawful realignment of funds from government agencies for the said project.
“That’s not an excuse,” Gordon said, referring to the camp of Aquino citing the so-called immunity from suit being enjoyed by a sitting president.
In the same interview, Gordon expressed belief that that far more serious charges other than graft and usurpation of authority, should have been filed by the Ombudsman against Aquino.
“If you would ask me, without going to the Ombudsman, I would have filed graver charges. It was clear that there are grounds for multiple homicide to reckless imprudence. (Aquino) was in charge, there should be command responsibility. And they were there to watch as the operation transpired,” Gordon said.
The senator was referring to reports that Aquino was alleged to have been monitoring the situation from Zamboanga City where he flew in on the day of the said operation in Mamasapano, in the guise supposedly of inspecting a bombing incident.
Aquino claimed that he instructed Napeñas to coordinate with the military for armor, artillery, air and troop support in the event that it will be needed.
But Napeñas alleged to have informed the AFP about the mission only when the SAF raid was already under way, not days before as supposedly instructed by Aquino, to give the military time to prepare.
“Ready or not the AFP is a ready machine. If there is trouble, the AFP would be there, they should be alert. Napeñas was blamed for supposedly lying to him. That should not be the case, he was the commander in chief,” Gordon said.
The senator said he cannot help but initially suspect that the Ombudsman has been, from the very start, trying to water down the charges which could lead to its dismissal.
“I am intent on reopening the Mamamasapano case. Why is it that when somebody when a prominent person is involved there are misgivings about letting the truth come out?”, he asked.
Whether there will be a Senate probe anew on the matter, Senator JV Ejercito said Aquino should face and answer the charges being hurled at him if only to provide closure to the families of the fallen 44 SAF members.
“For me, there should be some form of a closure because we need to give justice to what befell the gallant SAF 44. We do not intend to focus on President Aquino, but there are those saying that command responsibility should have been observed. At least we can give him the chance to clear his name if ever,” he said.
It would have been easier for the families of the fallen SAF members to accept their fate had Aquino assumed command responsibility rather than washed his hands on whatever gaffe committed by his subordinates that resulted in the bloody death of the 44 police commandos, Ejercito said.
“We want to give justice also to the death of the gallant 44,” he said.
Aguirre hails raps on Noy
The Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to file criminal charges against Aquino in connection with his alleged liability in the Mamasapano massacre was also lauded by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
“It’s a welcome development. The factual bases of the resolution are by and large accurate,” Aguirre said in a text message Sunday.
The justice official’s statement is opposite to the claims of Aquino’s camp that the Ombudsman appeared to have misappreciated the facts in the case in approving his indictment before the Sandiganbayan.
Aguirre said the findings of the anti-graft office on criminal liabilities of Aquino and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima vindicated his former client, Director Getulio Napeñas of the PNP Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
Aguirre noted that Napeñas defense is the liability of his higher officials as he was only following their orders.
Prior to his appointment in the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year, Aguirre served as lawyer of Napeñas — reportedly his relative — during the Senate inquiry and in succeeding criminal charges against the former police general.
The DOJ chief, however, has reserved his comment on the dissatisfaction of families of the so-called “SAF 44” due to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ dismissal of their original complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against Aquino and Purisima.
Morales ordered the filing of criminal charges against former President Aquino for usurpation of authority and violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.
Standing as Aquino’s co-conspirators are Purisima and Napeñas.
Close to midnight of Jan. 24, 2015, almost 400 highly-trained commandos belonging to the elite SAF, unilaterally launched “Oplan Exodus” to serve standing warrants of arrest against internationally-wanted terrorists Zulkifli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Ahmad Akmad Uson in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
In the ensuing firefight that lasted for several hours, 44 SAF troopers died in the line of duty.
According to the complainants, the criminal negligence of Aquino was based on several acts:
* Participation and assistance in the planning of Oplan Exodus with gross and inexcusable negligence;
* Approving the operation with full knowledge that it was flawed;
* For allowing suspended PNP Chief Purisima not only to participate in the planning, but also in the running of said operation and proving information and intelligence, thereby giving pseudo-legal power to a suspended official; and
* Breach in the established norms inherent in a chain of command.
Morales said that “certainly a public officer who is under preventive suspension in barred from performing any public functions and from meddling into the affairs of the government. In other words, Purisima would not have been placed in such a position of continuing to conduct himself, in relation to Oplan Exodus, in a manner as if he was not under preventive suspension at that time, from his position as PNP chief, were it not for the complicity and influence of President Aquino.”


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