MANILA — With abiding humility, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday asked for understanding from the Filipino people and from the families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) killed in the Mamasapano incident.
President Aquino made this appeal during the 36th Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Commencement Exercises for Lakandula Class of 2015 at Camp General Mariano N. Castaneda in Silang, Cavite.
”To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation: It is with the abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” the President said in his speech.
”I am aware of this: that no words will suffice to explain the deaths of our brave policemen. A report or a speech can never reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who lost a good child. All I can do, after saying all that must be said, and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding,” the President he added.
After explaining his side on the bloody encounter in three different occasions, the President reiterated to the 246 new graduates of the PNPA that he was responsible for the unfortunate incident that also claimed the lives of 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and three civilians.
”Today, I say this once more: As President, I am fully responsible for any result—any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy—that may be borne of our desire for lasting security and peace,” he said.
The President promised to go after those responsible in the Mamasapano incident and will continue to serve the 100 million Filipino people in the remaining 459 days of his administration.
”I will continue to do what is right and just. I will continue to exert every effort to serve all of you and to faithfully fulfill my sworn mandate. I am not saying that I am like God, who knows everything, but I have a duty to right whatever wrong I discover. And I assure you: We respect due process. Those responsible will be held to account,” he said.
The President said he was saddened that despite his efforts to bring comfort to the victims of the Mamasapano tragedy, people continued to judge him as insensitive and without compassion.
”My intention was to help them heal. I wanted to have clear answers should I be asked, “What happened? Why did they die? What will happen to us now?” If my response was “I do not know,” how could I help hasten the healing?,” the President said.
The President explained again that he received information about the death of SAF 44 late in the afternoon of January 25.
”if I had known this immediately, do you think I would have missed the chance to help our men? But you know what happened. On the morning of January 25, there was no urgency in the text messages that were sent to me. From what was texted, it appeared to me as if the operation in Mamasapano had ended, or was coming to an end, because mechanized units and artillery were already providing assistance,” President Aquino explained.
”With God as my witness, I tell you the truth. But I am aware there are those who are close-minded, who will not listen regardless of what I say,” he added.
The President reiterated that has not be given correct information about the real situation when the 392-member SAF team carried out a mission to arrest two high-profile terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.
”Regardless of my anger for the disregard for the orders I gave, regardless of my regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from me, I can never erase the fact: 44 members of our police force are dead. And this happened under my term. Let me stress it: I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave,” the President said.
President Aquino agreed with the reports of the PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) and Senate that the lack of coordination between the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) led to the unfortunate end of the SAF 44.
Unless the investigating teams both from Congress and PNP would ask for his side, President Aquino said “this is the last time I will speak on this issue.”