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Palace rules out PNoy testimony

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will no longer submit an affidavit to the Senate committee which will reopen its investigation into the Mamasapano incident that resulted in the 67 people, including 44 police commandos, killed on Jan. 27, 2015.

“I don’t see why there would be a reason for the President to submit an affidavit,” Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said in an interview with state-run radio dzRB on Saturday.

“Let us not forget that the Senate has already conducted its hearing and that it has concluded its probe.  It was a very extensive hearing,” Quezon said of the probe to be conducted by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Senator Grace Poe.

Poe reopened the probe at the behest of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile who claimed he had evidence to prove that Aquino did nothing to stop the clash between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.

The commandos were killed in the course of “Oplan Exodus,” a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir, who was hiding with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

KEY EVIDENCE. Former police general Diosdado Valeroso explains to journalists how he came to possess an audio recording between unidentified police officials who were apparently talking about a cover-up of the Mamasapano massacre. JANSEN ROMERO

Marwan was killed in the operation but the operation turned into a disaster when the SAF commandos ran into fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, triggering a day-long series of clashes. 

Aside from the slain commandos, 17 MILF fighters and three civilians were also killed and the Mindanao peace process almost scuttled.

Retired police general Diosdado Valeroso, a former Special Action Force official, also claimed on Saturday he had “critical” proof of an attempted cover-up of the Mamasapano encounter.

Valeroso, a former leader of the Young Officers Union who is now running the Senate, said he is in possession of an audio recording between two officials who were apparently talking about a cover-up a day or two after the incident.

Valeroso did not identify the two people in the audio recording, adding that he will submit the recording to the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.

But Quezon said no one would know the nature of these supposed evidence until the hearing itself, but he announced that Aquino will confer the PNP Medal of Valor on Chief Insp. Gednat G. Tabdi and PO2 Romeo C. Cempron, both among the slain police commandos now known as the SAF 44.

“This is the awarding ceremony that will take place, I believe, in Camp Crame. The President authorized the award and among the awards that will be conferred is the PNP Medal of Valor,” Quezon said.

Tabdi was the head of the SAF 84th Company, which led the “main effort” in the operation to capture international terrorist Zulkifi Bin Hir alias “Marwan,” while Cempron was the lead gunner of the 55th company.

Quezon said only two SAF members would receive the Medal of Valor, as other 42 other slain troopers would receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal as previously recommended by the National Police Commission.

“My understanding is that besides the awarding of the PNP Medal of Valor, which will be [given] to two individuals, there will also be the Medalya ng Kabayanihan or the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal, which will be awarded to the SAF 44,” Quezon said.

Quezon announced the awarding of the medals after public criticism of Aquino’s behavior in extending military honors to the slain commandos and the extension of benefits to their families.

As late as Jan. 13, the National Police Commission said it is was still awaiting Aquino approval of the recommended posthumous awards for the slain policemen, leading security veterans to say the awards could have been given upon their burial if Aquino had wanted to.

Qualified children of the Medal of Valor and Distinguished Conduct Medal awardees can avail of scholarships under the Reward Education Assistance Program of the PNP.

Medal of Valor awardees are also entitled to a monthly pension of P20,000 a month which “shall accrue in equal shares and with the right of accretion to the surviving spouse until she remarries and to the legitimate, adopted or illegitimate children until they reach the age of 18 or until they marry, whichever comes earlier.”

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