MANILA – After five public hearings and four executive sessions, the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs joint with the committees on peace, unification and reconciliation and finance, wrapped its inquiry on the Mamapano incident on Tuesday.
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the panel, assured that the committee report will be done with utmost care and fairness to include all information specifically statements and testimonies of the resource persons.
”It is a challenge, a daunting one, just for the sheer volume of information that we have to go thru. But our goal is to be fair and our goal is to help bring about justice,” Poe said.
The Senate investigation was based on six resolutions filed to look into the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on January 25.
The 44 were part of the 392 SAF commandos who carried out Oplan Exodus aimed at capturing two-high profile terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The SAF team was able to kill Marwan, a notorious bomb-maker and trainer, but a booby trap near his hideout exploded, igniting a whole day firefight between the SAF troopers and the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILFF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
”In closing, these hearings have necessarily focused on the undeniable lapses in the conduct of operations leading to 44 deaths of the PNP-SAF. It appears that the operation was poorly planned from the start to make matters worse, there was an undeniable breakdown of both leadership and command and control in the PNP,” Poe said in his closing statement.
Poe said information about Operation Plan Exodus was deliberately withheld from the Secretary Mar Roxas of Interior and Local Government and the officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina of the PNP.
She said the PNP has clearly did not make prior coordination with nearby units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines until both the 84th and the 55th special action companies were already heavily engaged in firefights with hostile forces.
”In the joint committee report that we are preparing, the committees will propose legislative actions necessary to avoid repetition of this incident in the future. We will be making recommendations with respect to the proposed PNP Modernization Program which is pending before Congress,” Poe said.
The Senate also discovered that many of the so-called fallen 44 were shot at close range and they were stripped of their weapons, equipment, uniform and even their personal belongings.
”They were treated with ignominy with videos of their corpses posted on the internet. Hence, of equal, if not greater importance to our nation is the impact of the Mamasapano incident on the ongoing peace process which the government is undertaking with the MILF,” Poe said.
Poe clarified that the Senate is one in the search for a lasting peace in Mindanao, saying every effort must be exerted to achieve the goal.
”However, there can be no peace without justice. A peace agreement that allows the slaughter of our law enforcers because they did not coordinate their operation with the other party is certainly flawed. It is not an excuse for the commission of a crime,” Poe said.
”For this joint representation, the joint committee report will not be credible or acceptable to our people unless we examine the Mamasapano incident in the context of the ongoing peace process with the MILF,” she added.
She also said the efforts of the government to arrive at a just, sustainable and lasting peace in Mindanao while ensuring the socio-economic, political and cultural equity must not be at the expense of our sovereignty and national integrity.
”The laws of our republic must be enforceable and enforced within our territorial boundaries without exception,” Poe said.
Poe thanked all the resource persons both from the government and the MILF, the government partner in the peace process, led by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.
From the government, Poe thanked Roxas and Espina and even resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima and relieved SAF chief Getulio Napenas.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials led by Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang Jr. and Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin along with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and government peace negotiator Teresita Deles and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer also cooperated in the hearings.