THE Palace said Sunday President Benigno Aquino III is determined to finish his term as calls for his resignation over the botched operation in Mamasapano gained traction.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the most prudent thing to do is to let the police board of inquiry finish its probe on the operation against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir that left 44 police commandos dead.
“While we respect contrary views, we affirm the President’s commitment to fulfill his sworn duty until the completion of his term of office,” Coloma said.
“It is best to wait for the result of the BOI investigation before jumping to conclusions and judging the actions of the President,” he added.
Over the weekend, retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and five other senior bishops joined calls for the President to resign. Vidal, chairman of the National Transformation Council, said their group will launch protests to make the same demand beginning Feb. 22, the anniversary of the 1986 People’s Power revolt that brought the President’s mother to power.
Vidal said Aquino must be held accountable for the death of the 44 Special Action Force troopers in Mamasapano.
“If we understand what is a commander-in-chief, if we understand the chain of command, of course he has to account for that,” Vidal said in a statement.
Other bishops who supported the statement were Bayombong, Cagayan Bishop Ramon Villena, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla and Naval, Biliran Bishop Filomeno Bactol. Vidal issued the statement after the celebration of a Mass at his residence in Cebu for the slain police commandos. Incumbent Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma clarified that while he did not share the view that Aquino must resign, he also wants the President to answer nagging questions about the incident, which directly involved him and resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima. “We, bishops of the Catholic and other Christian Churches, have often been asked if there is moral basis to this growing demand. Even long before the unfortunate events, the National Transformation Council has strongly articulated that the President step down,” the bishops said in the statement.
“Recent developments have made the call even more urgent and imperative,” they added.
The group said the Mamasapano incident showed Aquino’s mishandling of many obligations as commander-in-chief.
Also on Sunday, the Palace said it would unmask the alleged financier of a coup plot that police and military officials last week said they could not verify.
“Reports of destabilization plots, including the alleged financier, are being given ample attention,” Coloma said. “Authorities are studying all these reports for appropriate action.” Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier disclosed receiving reports from sources in the intelligence community of a plan to overthrow the Aquino administration.
Santiago said the coup plotters are planning to use the Mamasapano incident to destabilize the government.
“All of those planners should be arrested immediately because like any other crime under the penal code, the crime of coup d’etat has three stages: attempted, frustrated, and consummated. So arrest them,” Santiago said.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed receiving similar reports of a plan to overthrow the government.
Gazmin, however, expressed confidence that the military will not be involved in any coup attempt.
Coloma said state forces are also prepared for any retaliatory attacks from the camp of Basit Usman following the death of the terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
Usman, who carries a $1 million bounty, escaped the police raid in Mamasapano.