IGNORING calls for a public apology, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday slammed the Senate and the police board of inquiry for basing their reports on the Mamasapano debacle on speculation.
Speaking to graduates of Philippine National Police Academy in Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite, Aquino said it saddened him that those who prepared the reports chose to speculate on the events that led to deaths of 44 police commandos in the covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, instead of asking him questions.
Despite this criticism, Aquino said the two reports answered many of the questions in the minds of the public.
“Both reports agree with our initial statements about certain details of the operation. In fact, the two reports reaffirm the position we had taken from the very beginning: The lack of coordination with the AFP was a major mistake,” said Aquino.
But the draft of the joint committee report from the Senate also said the President was “ultimately responsible” for the Mamasapano incident after he allowed then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to participate in Operation Exodus.
The police board of inquiry, on the other hand, said the President broke the chian of command when he went through Purisima, who was already suspended on corruption charges at the time of the operation.
“What saddens me is that at times, in lieu of asking me questions, those who prepared the reports chose to speculate instead. This leads us to ask: How can guesswork, instead of facts, help clarify this issue?” Aquino said.
At the same time, Aquino said, there were many other matters that needed his attention.
“I am responsible for the 100 million Filipinos here at home and abroad. Yes, I am the President, but I am also human. I cannot read the mind of every person in front of me, and I cannot personally monitor every situation. But as I have promised, I will continue to do what is right and just,” said Aquino.
“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,” said Aquino, who promised that those responsible for the Mamasapano incident would be held accountable.
Aquino said this would be the last time he would speak on the Mamasapano case, except when those concerned needed clarification from him.
Aquino had given two national addresses on the Mamasapano debacle, but his critics said each speech raised more questions and made matters worse.
“I hope you will allow me to share my own point of view to shedmlight on the context behind the decisions I made in relation to the incident in Mamasapano. It is your right to know the whole truth. After all, it is often said that the truth shall set us all free,” Aquino said.
He said perhaps the most important question he must answer is one that asked by a father of a slain police commando.
“Why did you allow my son to go there? Why did you let him die?” Aquino said.
But the President said words would not suffice to explain the deaths of the brave policemen, and no report or speech could reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who has lost a son.
“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,” said Aquino.
“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,” he said.
Regardless of his anger he felt when his orders were disregarded, or his regret for trusting people who concealed the truth from him, he can never erase the fact that the 44 SAF commandos died under his watch, Aquino said.
“I will bear this basic truth with me to my grave,” the embattled President said.
In defending his actions on previous occasions, the President blamed Purisima and sacked PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napeñas for lying to him or giving him the wrong information, and for disregard his orders to coordinate with the Armed Forces.
“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 said he is sad there are families who are now without a husband, a father, a brother, a son, because of what happened in Mamasapano.
The President said he is saddened that, despite his effort to give the families space to grieve, as they were to meet their fallen loved ones for the first time, some people criticized him for failing to attend the arrival rites of the bodies in Villamor Air Base.
The President said his intention in staying away 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?” Aquino said.
The President said he is also sad that the peace process has been affected by the sentiments over the Mamasapano incident.
The deaths of the 44 police commandos at the hands of fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed groups has stalled congressional hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the lynchpin in the government’s peace agreement with the MILF.
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