MANILA – Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday released a committee report which found the Mamasapano incident as a clear ‘massacre’ that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos dead last Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The Mamasapano incident is clearly a “massacre,” not simply a so-called “encounter” or “misencounter,” Poe said in a press briefing where she showed to the media a 120-page report of 5 public hearings, 5 executive sessions and 73 hours of full discussion attended by 37 resource persons in the Senate.
Poe, chairperson of the public order, said ‘concerned members’ of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and other armed groups have murdered and robbed the 44 SAF commandos.
”Survivors recount how their companies were surrounded and decimated – even wounded SAF soldiers were fired upon,” Poe said in the executive summary of the report.
Poe said the assailants cannot validly claim that its fighters acted in self-defense because of the absence of the element of unlawful aggression on the part of the SAF troopers.
”The MILF’s claim of self-defense is, therefore, unavailing,” Poe said.
Although the Senate leaves the responsibility of identifying the particular assailants to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Poe said the murder and frustrated murder chargers ‘may be instituted against the MILF fighters as well as the BIFF and other armed groups involved in the massacre of the SAF 44.
Poe said former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima committed “usurpation of authority or official functions,” violating Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code when he involved himself in the Oplan Exodus despite his preventive suspension by the Ombudsman.
”In addition, an administrative complaint may be filed with the Ombudsman against Purisima for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” Poe said.
As for former SAF Chief Getulio Napenas, Poe said the relieved SAF official committed “grave misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties and for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service” under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in Civil Service.”
Poe said President Benigno Aquino III “must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of the official functions by Purisima.
”As to the President, he is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission,” Poe said.
”He assented to Purisima’s unlawful exercise of official functions, particularly the latter’s “usurpation of authority or official functions,” she added.
Under the committee report, Poe said the President must “display unquestionable leadership, be forthright and candid with our people, accept the responsibility for decisions made, and mistakes perhaps, along the way. Nobody is infallible.”
” The President and other high-ranking government officials, could have done more under the circumstances to prevent or minimize the number of deaths that jolted the nation,” Poe said.
Poe said had the President and key security officials who were with him in Zamboanga City, discussed the incident and shared information clearly and openly in the early stages of the tragic day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives could have been lost.
The President was with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Pio Catapang in Zamboanga in the morning of January 25.
”Since he was familiar with the plan, the President might have stepped in and displayed stronger positioning leadership regarding the rescue operations if he was given the proper information,” Poe said.
”As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President wields great power and has vast resources at his disposal. The decision of the President and his men not to use those resources immediately to prevent the carnage must be explained,” Poe added.
The lady lawmaker said there were indications that the planning and execution of the botched mission “were not 100-percent Filipino-planned and implemented.”
”US personnel played a role in the training for and monitoring of the said operation,” Poe said.
”The Committees found that the United States substantially invested in the entirety of Oplan Exodus. They provided equipment, training and intelligence. However, this raises the question of whether the PNP leadership would have entered into such a risky and hazardous operation without the support of the United States and the million reward offered for Marwan’s capture,” Poe said.
The Senate panel also recommended that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) should pursue peace with justice.
”The peace that we seek must be based on justice, where the rule of law reigns supreme, and where violators are brought before the bar of justice. The blood and heroism of the SAF 44 must not be dis-honored. Our people will accept no less,” Poe said.
Poe said the 120-page committee report has yet to be signed by the other senators.
”Other senators may introduce amendments,” she said.
Senator Ralph Recto commended Poe’s report, saying the lady lawmaker ‘correctly pointed out when the command structure fractured.”
”My first impression is that it, the report , is FPJ – fair perceptive and judicious,” Recto said, adopting the monicker of Poe’s father, the late movie actor FPJ or Fernando Poe Jr.