THE Philippine National Police board of inquiry finally submitted its report Thursday on the Mamasapano incident, 47 days after the covert operation that resulted in the death of 60 people, including 44 police commandos.
“We are confident that we were able to seek out the truth,” said the board’s chairman, Police Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
“We can face the people without shame, including the families of those who lost loved ones,” he told reporters in a press conference where he, Director Catalino Rodriguez and Chief Supt. John Sosito signed a copy of the final report.
Magalong denied accusations that the board was being guided to a specific conclusion when President Benigno Aquino III, who has admitted involvement in the operation, publicly blamed sacked Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas for the debacle and disavowed any fault on his part.
“There was no pressure. We did not mind [Aquino’s public remarks],” Magalong said, adding that the members of the panel could “look straight into the eyes of the family members of the SAF 44.”
Magalong, however, did not provide journalists a copy of the report because they needed to get permission from Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who ordered the investigation.
Aside from Roxas, acting PNP chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Justice Department received copies of the report, he said.
Magalong said the families of the slain SAF commandos will also be given copies once Roxas approves the release of the report to the public.
He also said they were still printing 60 to 70 sets of the final report.
He said the people accountable in the incident are identified in the report.
”We are confident, for the sake of the truth , that (the report) will enlighten everybody,” he said.
The board was originally scheduled to submit the report on Feb. 26 this was moved to March 6 and again to March 9, and was completed after a three-day extension.
Magalong said the delay was due to the volume of evidence that the board’s operational audit team had to scrutinize, including the results of investigation in the field and statements from interviews.
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma assured the public that the board’s report would be made available.
Coloma noted that President Benigno Aquino III has yet to see the report.
Coloma again defended the President against criticism for publicly blaming Napeñas even before the board released its report, and said these were the President’s “personal thoughts” and “an overview” of the Mamasapano operation.
In the House of Representatives, lawmakers hit the PNP for keeping the public in suspense over the board’s final report.
Reps. Gary Alejano and Ashley Acedillo of Magdalo partylist, Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan, Romeo Acop of Antipolo and Samuel Pagdilao of ACT-CIS partylist also said the report was crucial for the House to resume its own investigation into the Mamasapano massacre.
“Every day of delay casts a shadow of doubt and dilutes the BOI of its credibility and further the flames of distrust on the presidency,” the group said in a statement before the media at a forum Thursday.
“Our own inquiry in Congress had been put on the back burner, in suspended animation, just to give way to the BOI,” the group added.
An administration lawmaker, meanwhile, asked President Aquino to disclose everything he knows about the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operation and to avoid giving piecemeal information that tends to raise more questions.
Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian warned that failure on the part of the President to reveal what he knows about Operation Exodus will further erode the commander-in-chief’s credibility and will ultimately result in the chief executive’s political death.
“The more President Aquino talks piecemeal about the Mamasapano incident, the more he buries himself in the political quicksand of his own doing. And if the chief executive can’t extricate himself from this quicksand, he will be politically dead sooner than expected,” said Gatchalian, a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which is allied with the administration.
Gatchalian added that President Aquino’s “unstatesmanlike” and “unpresidential” remarks against relieved SAF Director Getulio Napeñas were indications that he was confused about who to blame for the botched operation.
“The most glaring inconsistency on the President’s statement before Christian leaders was his admission that suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima was the one texting him about the developments on Oplan Exodus based on the information being relayed to him by Gen. Napenas,” Gatchalian said.
“This fully contradicted the President’s Jan. 28 statement before Malacanang reporters that General Purisima was directly involved in the Mamasapano operation only up to the time that he was suspended by the Ombudsman December of last year.”
Gatchalian said finding scapegoats and pinning the blame on the likes of Napeñas will not do the President any good since his own statements reveal that he knew about the SAF operation and as commander-in-chief, he had command and control over both the SAF teams and the Army units in Maguindanao.
“What the President should do is to tell all, be humble enough to assume responsibility for the fiasco and render justice to the SAF 44 soonest,” Gatchalian said.
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