President Benigno Aquino III on Friday sought to calm public outrage over the death of 44 police commandos in a chaotic operation that targeted two wanted terrorists by taking responsibility for the officers' families and letting go of the Philippine National Police chief who allegedly oversaw the mission.
He, too, had a lot of questions about the Mamasapano tragedy for which he demanded answers.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr. Aquino said that the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) operation against Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," was successful.
Marwan, the primary target of the operation, was killed in the SAF assault on his hideout in Pidsandawan village, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
But the secondary target, Marwan's deputy Abdul Basit Usman, escaped.
Still, the mission was considered accomplished, although Mr. Aquino acknowledged that the government "paid a heavy price" for it.
"I am the father of this country and 44 of my children were killed. They can no longer be brought back. This tragedy happened during my term, and I will carry this to the end of my days," Mr. Aquino said.
Addressing himself to the families of the 44 slain SAF troopers, Mr. Aquino said: "Just as I was responsible for your loved ones, so too am I responsible for you; it is my duty to ensure that the sacrifices made by your relatives are repaid."
Then he promised them: "During my remaining 17 months in office, I am doing, and will continue to do, everything I can to guarantee your families' well-being."
Apparently to ease public anger at those responsible for the disastrous police mission, Mr. Aquino announced that he had accepted the resignation of Director General Alan Purisima, the suspended PNP chief who allegedly directed the SAF operation.
Word that Purisima had resigned and that Mr. Aquino had accepted his resignation went around late on Thursday but Palace and police officials denied it. But on Friday night, Mr. Aquino confirmed it.
"I have accepted, effective immediately, the resignation of General Purisima. I thank him for his many years of service prior to this tragedy," Mr. Aquino said.
He said Purisima played a "vital role" in the government's efforts to capture Marwan and Usman.
"He contributed greatly to the long preparations and in the many operations in pursuit of the two terrorists," Mr. Aquino said.
He made it clear, however, that it was with a heavy heart that he accepted Purisima's resignation, reminding the nation that the two of them had been friends "for a very long time."
"It is also public knowledge that we go way back. During the attempted coup d'etat in 1987, I was confident, before we were ambushed, that we had enough security personnel. But because most of my companions were killed, my confidence wavered. It was Alan Purisima who designed and implemented a modified VIP protection course, and trained us to follow it," Mr. Aquino said.
"From then, until now, we had gone through so much; he was with me in fighting interests that could betray us. When I was still with the opposition, while it was risky for his career to be close to me, Alan did not leave me," the President said.
"This is why, perhaps, you would understand why it is painful for me that he would leave the service under these circumstances," he said.