SENATOR Juan Ponce Enrile mocked President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday, saying he was stupid for depending on incompetent officers to lead the Mamasapano operation in January last year, and being the first Philippine president to abandon his troops to be slaughtered.
The President has consistently blamed dismissed Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas for the deaths of the 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, calling him stupid and incompetent.
But Enrile said in a radio interview on dzBB that it was the President who was stupid for depending on someone he later considered incompetent.
He also hammered at the President for keeping his Cabinet and the military in the dark about the operation to neutralize two high-profile terrorists.
“He took it upon himself. He thought he could do it, but he was incompetent,” Enrile said in Filipino.
In planning the covert police operation to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and local bomb maker Basit Usman, Enrile said the President did not even talk to his Cabinet.
Instead, he deliberately compartmentalized Oplan Exodus to himself, then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, and Napeñas.
In doing so, he hid his involvement behind Purisima, Enrile said.
In last week’s reopening of the Mamasapano investigation, Enrile said the President could be held criminally liable for his actions—and inaction—during the Mamasapano massacre.
“He will be charged the moment he stepped down. That’s for sure,” Enrile said.
Ferdinand Topacio, a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, told The Standard that their group is considering filing criminal charges against Aquino in connection with the deaths of the SAF 44.
He said those charges will be filed after Aquino steps down as President and loses his immunity from suit.
Senator Grace Poe, who chaired the Mamasapano hearings, said the findings in their committee report remains the same—that the President is ultimately responsible for the killing of 44 police commandos by Moro rebels in Mamasapano in January last year.
Enrile said the President and his lawyers should study the “sins” he enumerated in his opening statement in last Wednesday’s hearing.
Reacting to the claims that Napeñas was pinned down in the hearing, Enrile challenged the government to go after the former SAF chief.
“Try to charge him and he will be acquitted. Once he is charged, his lawyers will ask for an amendment of the information to include the President,” Enrile said.
Enrile also chided Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Teofisto Guingona III for acting as the President’s lawyers during last week’s hearings.
Last week, Drilon said nothing in the testimony showed that the President actively participated in the planning of Oplan Exodus.
Guingona added that the President merely acted based on the information provided to him by Napeñas, which turned out to be wrong.
But Enrile said if this was the kind of President the country has, then he should be dumped.
“We have intelligence funds,” he said.
He also said he no longer needed to call Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma to testify, because he had already established the President’s role in planning and monitoring Oplan Exodus.
Enrile said he has in his possession new evidence in the form of an audit report on Oplan Exodus. Without elaborating, he said some people tried to suppress the information in the report.
In a radio interview, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the PNP should release an official statement explaining the legal basis for the assistance it sought from the United States if it has nothing to hide. It should also specify the extent of that involvement and address allegations that a drone operated by US forces was used.
He said the executive branch would have some serious explaining to do about the US role in Mamasapano.
Leftist groups accused the US of sacrificing the lives of the SAF 44 to get international terrorist Marwan.
“The Mamasapano operation was funded and directed by the US. The US provided initial intelligence as well as real-time intelligence. US personnel were present at the tactical command post and were in a position to call the shots because they had control of real-time information coming from their drone.
The involvement of the US in the police operation is of course illegal and is not covered by any existing treaty or agreement,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the cooperation between the two countries in the Jan. 25 operation to arrest Marwan fell within the scope of the Visiting Forces Agreement the two countries had signed.
But Bayan slammed the US Embassy in Manila for insisting that US involvement in the counter-terror operation in Mamasapano was consistent with the legal framework of both countries.
“The US cannot even cite the VFA as basis for its intervention because it supposedly does not allow direct US involvement in combat operations. The reality is that the US, in many countries, has violated domestic and international laws in the name of the war on terror. The US does not respect national sovereignty. We’ve seen this in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. They are doing the same thing here,” Reyes said. With John Paolo Bencito
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