MANILA, Philippines – According to a report by journalist Willard Cheng, some of the bereaved families and relatives of the Fallen 44 were ‘hurt’ by President Benigno Aquino III’s answers to their questions during their meeting at Camp Crame last Wednesday.
“Janet,” the wife of one of the slain police commandos, gave an account of their conversation with President Aquino to ABS-CBN News. In there, she disclosed that the President even ‘scolded’ them at one point.
“Six p.m. po nang sinabi sa amin ng protocol officer namin na hindi muna kami pwede umuwi dahil darating si Mr. President. Matagal pa po kami naghintay. 8 p.m. na siya dumating at nagsimula po niyang kausapin per table ang bawat pamilya (3 families per table),” Janet said.
(It was 6 pm when our protocol officer told us that we could not go home yet because Mr. President will be visiting us. We waited for a long time. He arrived at 8 pm and started to sit down and talk to three families per table.)
“Pasado alas 11 na po ng gabi nang mapagdesisyunan na ang 6 na pamilyang natitira ay pagsama-samahin para mas mapabilis na matapos ang paguusap. Bago kami kausapin nagsabi ang Pangulo na maghihilamos muna sya. Pagkatapos ng mahabang paghihintay nagsimula ang usapan kung saan bawat pamilya ang nagtatanong,” she added.
(It was past 11 that night when it was decided that the remaining six families will be meeting all together [with President Aquino] so that the discussion will be finished sooner. Before he talked to us, the President said that he will wash first. After a long wait, the conversation started wherein each family asked.)
Janet also mentioned that several families asked similar questions to President Aquino.
“Magtatanong lang po kami bakit tumagal ng mahigit 10 oras ang bakbakan, bakit walang reinforcement? Ilang survivor na po ang nainterview at sinabi na maghapon silang nakipaglaban para mabuhay pero walang reinforcement na dumarating,” said a family member of one of the slain elite police.
(We are just going to ask why the encounter lasted for more than 10 hours. Why was there no reinforcement? Some survivors were already interviewed and said that they fought for their lives the whole afternoon and there was no reinforcement that came.)
“Sabi ko, padalhan ng reinforcement iyan kaya akala ko okay na. Di ko naman alam na hindi pala totoo iyun. At di ko rin alam na bandang hapon eh napapalaban na rin ang (SAF) 84th Seaborne,” Aquino replied.
(I told them to send reinforcement so I thought that it was already settled. I didn’t know that it wasn’t done. I also didn’t know that the [SAF] 84th Seaborne was still engaged in the firefight by the afternoon [of January 15.])
President Aquino also likened the sending of reinforcements to meeting a friend at a mall.
“Kayo ba kapag kunwari itetext nyo friend nyo, ‘Kita tayo sa MOA,’ ganun lang ba kadali sa inyo na pumunta dun? (If you were to text your friend, ‘Let’s meet at MOA’ [Mall of Asia], is it that easy for you to go there?),” he asked.
Janet, who was still grieving the death of her husband, was not pleased with President Aquino’s answer when a family asked for justice.
“Ano gusto nyo gawin ko, kunin natin ang fingerprint ng mga kalaban? Aba madami iyun, para malaman natin sino pumatay sa mga kamag-anak nyo,” Aquino said.
(What do you want me to do, get the fingerprints of all the [MILF] combatants? Well, there are a lot of them for us to know who really killed your relatives.)
President Aquino also reiterated the death of his father in an attempt to console the bereaved families and relatives.
“Namatay rin ang tatay ko, alam ko pakiramdam niyo kaya patas na rin tayo ngayon. (My father also died. I know what you feel so we are equal now), he said.
After all the ‘offending’ remarks, President Aquino then bluntly blamed Napeñas for the ‘misencounter.’
“Ang may kasalanan diyan, ‘yung nag-utos na papuntahin sila dun. Alam na delikado tinuloy pa rin at si Napenas iyun. (The one to blame there is the one who ordered them to go there. [He] knew that it was dangerous yet he pushed through the mission and he is Napeñas), he said.
Janet then said that some families were greatly ‘dismayed’ with President Aquino’s words that they decided to go home and no longer talk to him.
Malacañang, on the other hand, said that they respected the sentiments of the bereaved families and relatives of the 44 PNP-SAF troopers.
With report from Cyra Moraleda