PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III “did not do anything at all” while the 44 Special Action Force commandos were being slaughtered by Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, and some Cabinet officials lied to the Senate panel investigating the massacre last year, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Monday.
On the Senate floor, Enrile said he could prove that Aquino “actively and directly” involved himself in the planning and execution of Operation Exodus, the ill-fated covert police operation to neutralize two high-profile terrorists in Mamasapano in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015.
On that day, the President was monitoring the operation while on board a plane headed to Zamboanga, Enrile said.
“I want to put this on record,” the 91-year-old senator said when he took the floor.
Enrile’s remarks came in response to an attempt by Senate President Franklin Drilon to block the introduction of new information during the reopening of the Senate investigation of the Mamasapano debacle.
Drilon had argued that the Senate committee on rules had approved Enrile’s motion to reopen the investigation but never mentioned new matters.
In seeking new hearings, Enrile said he was unable to ask questions during last year’s hearings because he was under hospital arrest at the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame, where SAF members who survived the Mamasapano debacle were also confined.
Enrile would not say if his new information came from the SAF survivors at the PNP hospital, but said the family of the SAF survivors came to him and he talked to them about the incident.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the committee on rules, said the results of the earlier Mamasapano hearings would not be voided because good faith was ascribed to Enrile.
But Drilon said he still had his reservations on the new matters and insisted that this should be cited by Enrile in his manifestation.
At this juncture, Enrile reiterated his manifestation for reopening the hearings before the committee on public order headed by Senator Grace Poe. He then said the President did nothing to rescue the SAF members.
The leader of the opposition also said he will show that some Cabinet members who appeared before the Senate hearing did not disclose facts they knew.
Among the Cabinet officials who testified last year was then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is now running for president under the administration banner. Roxas testified last year that he was kept out of the loop on the covert operation.
Enrile also ruled out holding a closed-door session on the Mamasapano massacre.
“My question—was there a national security matter in the Mamasapano [case]? None. This is a police operation, the enforcement of criminal law. The basis of the operation was the enforcement of a warrant of arrest. What is the national security [matter] here?” Enrile said on the floor.
“What are we talking about national security? I have handled national security for 17 years,” Enrile said in a separate interview before the session.
“Why [hold a] closed door [session]? We are supposed to be transparent, Daang Matuwid,” he said. “We are not hiding anything here. We’re saying the truth will set us free.”
He said his only objective in seeking for the resumption was to know the truth and to know if there were people lying to the country.
“That’s all. If they are not lying, they have nothing to say. If they did not lie, they have no worry. If they performed their job in office, they have no worry,” Enrile said.
In her committee report last year, Poe said Aquino was ultimately responsible for the death of the 44 police commandos in Mamasapano.
The Palace on Monday said they have been open and forthcoming in the Senate investigation.
“The Senate is at liberty to determine how it wants to conduct the planned reopening of the inquiry,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
“Records will show that the Executive branch had always been open and forthcoming in addressing all questions pertaining to the Mamasapano incident,” he added.
Enrile vowed to delve into the liability of the President in the deaths of the 44 police commandos when the hearings reopen.
“He is the President until the end of his term and he has accountability over the events that transpired during his entire term,” Enrile said.
“It is irrelevant whatever the time he has left in his term. He is the President, period. He has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the incident,” he added.
The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs has set the hearing on Jan. 27.
Enrile said his motion to reopen the Mamasapano inquiry had nothing to do with politics and said he had no ax to grind against Aquino.
But he said he wanted Aquino to attend the hearing to explain his actions or inaction which may have led to the deaths of the 44 commandos.
Also on Monday, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said unfulfilled government promises and the cries for justice from the families of the SAF 44 justified the reopening of the Senate investigation.
“Almost a year has passed after the Mamasapano massacre and yet we continue to hear complaints from some of the kin of the SAF 44 that they have yet to receive the assistance the government promised to them,” Marcos said.
Marcos said the complaint of two widows rab counter to the statement the Philippine National Police last July claiming they have provided about P80 million in cash aid for all the kin of the SAF 44 as well as scholarship benefits for children of the slain policemen.
“But what the families of the SAF 44 are asking most from the government is justice for their loved ones. Yet until now no case has been filed in court to prosecute those responsible,” Marcos added.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.