MANILA, Philippines - His speech at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) on Thursday will be the last time President Aquino will discuss the Mamasapano incident and he believes it will end the controversy that has sunk his presidency in a crisis just as he is about to finish his term.
"I think I will have my last chance to talk about Mamasapano in particular and to tie everything up," Aquino told the Inquirer, referring to the PNPA graduation ceremonies at Camp General Mariano N. Castañeda in Silang, Cavite province.
Six of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos killed in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre were PNPA graduates.
The President said the central theme of his speech would be the decisions he made as the SAF counterterrorism operation in Maguindanao province unraveled.
"I, too, have many questions but that will be the focus of my speech at the PNPA," Aquino said in an interview. "What decisions did I make? My decisions were based on information available to me at the time, and that's how I want to be judged."
Public anger has not subsided two months after the operation that took down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," went disastrously wrong.
There are now calls for Aquino to resign or for him to account for the perceived errors that led to the deaths of the commandos in a clash with Moro rebels who ambushed them after the operation.
The clash has also led to the suspension of discussions in Congress on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, casting doubt in the completion of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Palace insiders have told the Inquirer that the President would ask the people for their understanding on the decisions he made on Mamasapano but he would not apologise, as demanded by his critics.
A Pulse Asia survey showed that eight out of 10 adult Filipinos said Aquino's explanation on the fiasco was "not enough."
On Saturday, the Inquirer had a 33-minute interview with the President after a private dinner he had with friends at a Quezon City mall.
Aquino said that in his speech, he would also address the questions the PNP board of inquiry and a Senate panel wanted to ask him but failed to do so.
No questions were asked
Both investigative reports had pointed to him as ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano disaster.
The President appeared to have been upset that he was not asked his side on what happened and that the investigation assumed what his answers would be.
"One of the central things is, whether it is the (board of inquiry) report or the Senate report or the things I said before the two (bodies) said anything, as far as the facts are concerned, where did we differ?" Aquino said.
Don't fill in the blanks
"They both admitted that for whatever reasons, they never bothered to submit a questionnaire and they never got to air my answers to the questions on their minds and we take exception that they put in answers on their behalf," Aquino said.
"They said if they were able to [ask me], they would have been clarified. Now, if they think what I was saying was wrong, then they can refute it. If they think (what I said) is right, then they can affirm it. But what is wrong is to fill in the blanks," he said.
"Everybody has the right to respond to the accusations," the President added. "Unfortunately, I wasn't given that opportunity."
On the people's belief that he was ultimately responsible for Mamasapano, Aquino said that everything the government did was attributed to him because he was the Chief Executive.