Philippine Senate's Mamasapano report touted to be 'more hard-hitting'

Philippine Senate's Mamasapano report touted to be 'more hard-hitting'

MANILA, Philippines-The Senate report on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash will be "more hard-hitting" than the report of the Philippine National Police board of inquiry (BOI), a Senate source told the Inquirer on Monday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak to the press, said the Senate report would be released Tuesday.

"It's a blunt presentation of the facts concerning all the personalities involved," said the source, who has seen the Senate report.

Unlike the police report, the Senate report will point out the "liabilities" of the people involved in the disastrous Special Action Force (SAF) counterterrorism operation, the source said.

The Senate report, the source said, is hard-hitting in that it is more "editorial" compared to the police report, which consists of factual statements about the incident.

Sen. Grace Poe, head of the joint investigative committee, is calling a news conference Tuesday to present the report, the source said.

Last week, Poe promised the families of the 44 SAF commandos who were killed by Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that she would submit the committee report this week.

She said the report was based on five public hearings, five executive sessions and 73 hours of full discussion attended by 37 resource persons and agencies. The report was also based on more than 4,300 documents, she said.

No sacred cows

Poe also promised that there would be no sacred cows, and said she hoped it would strengthen the families' confidence in the Senate.

According to the source, the Senate report was more complete than the BOI report because the committees were able to talk to more people.

The source said, however, that the Senate committees were also unable to access certain information.

The board of inquiry report released on Friday said it was President Aquino who gave the go-signal for "Oplan Exodus," the SAF operation to take down terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias "Marwan," Basit Usman and Amin Baco.

Aquino, the BOI report said, broke the PNP chain of command by allowing suspended Director General Alan Purisima, a personal friend, to have a role in the planning and execution of the mission.

The report said the President, Purisima and the sacked SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, kept the mission to themselves, not informing even the PNP officer in charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, about it and the military was informed only when it was already too late to save the pinned down SAF commandos.

Palace defence

Malacañang rejected the BOI findings, declaring on Saturday that the President was not part of the PNP chain of command and that he could deal with any official in the executive branch.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also said the chain of command was a military concept that did not apply to the PNP, a civilian organisation.

On Monday, De Lima reiterated that the President could not be held criminally liable for bypassing the PNP chain of command.

"As of now, I cannot see that the President can be held criminally liable. We're not yet talking of the fact that he's supposed to be immune from suit. It's not within our jurisdiction or authority to investigate anything like that in so far as the President is concerned," De Lima told reporters.

According to De Lima, Aquino's role in the SAF operation was as Chief Executive, not Commander in Chief.

"As Chief Executive, he can deal with anybody, with subordinates, and even private individuals. That's the prerogative of a Chief Executive. He doesn't have to be constricted [by a] chain of command that he has to follow," she said.

De Lima said the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the Mamasapano incident was focused on the criminal liability arising from the findings of the PNP board of inquiry, the Senate and other investigative bodies.

Earlier, De Lima said the investigation would be expanded to include the possible liabilities of Purisima and Napeñas.

"That is part of our ongoing evaluation," she said.

Political crisis

The Mamasapano clash and the disclosure that Aquino had knowledge of it have sunk his administration in deep political crisis with only 500 days to go before he steps down from office.

An administration ally in the House of Representatives suggested on Monday that Aquino revamp his Cabinet to regain lost political capital.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said executive reassignments might help stop the erosion of support for Aquino.

Erice said, however, that Aquino could not be held liable for the Mamasapano incident, although the President might have made mistakes.

"I believe that he can tap anybody he trusts to help him in accomplishing things. It might be an error of judgment," he said, referring to Aquino's allowing Purisima to have a role in Oplan Exodus.

It was Purisima who told Napeñas not to inform Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas about the mission.

Purisima said it was he who would inform the military, but when he did, the SAF commandos were already at the verge of getting wiped out by guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM).

Forty-four SAF commandos, 17 MILF rebels, and three civilians were killed in the daylong gun battle.

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