JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II accused former President Benigno Aquino III Thursday of lying about his role in the covert Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos died two years ago and dared him to submit his mobile phone for forensic examination.
“He [Aquino] said he never gave instructions to then suspended PNP Chief General [Alan] Purisima. That is a lie. He was on top of the situation. He [knew] what [was] going on,” Aguirre said.
“If he is telling the truth, he should allow the forensic examination of his mobile phone,” he added.
The Justice secretary also assailed Aquino for insisting that the liability should end with former Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas.
“He was always saying that. But he is the one telling a lie,” said Aguirre, a cousin and one-time lawyer of Napeñas.
Aquirre asked why Aquino cleared then PNP chief Purisima despite the findings of the Senate and the Office of the Ombudsman.
“He said he did not give any order, but what was he telling General Purisima in their text message exchanges? He was giving orders and asking for updates on Marwan. That means he was on top of the situation. He knew everything that’s going on,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre noted that of all the officers involved in the Mamasapano tragedy, only Napeñas had his mobile phone examined.
On the other hand, the Ombudsman cleared Aquino right away, even though the Senate found him ultimately responsible for the debacle.
Aguirre said he would inhibit himself from any reinvestigation because of his relation to Napeñas.
Aquino issued a statement Thursday again blaming Napeñas for the Mamasapano tragedy while shielding his shooting buddy Purisima from any accountability.
“If I was at fault as President during that time, it was this: Never did it enter my mind that Napeñas would lie to the President of the Philippines,” Aquino said.
“I trusted a two-star police officer, who I myself promoted. I believed this graduate of the PMA would live up to the school’s values of ‘Courage, Integrity, Loyalty’,” he added.
Even if he was the commander-in-chief who knew entirely of the preparations, Aquino said Napeñas falsely guaranteed him that ‘Oplan Exodus’ would have sufficient backing from the Seaborne Unit of the 84th SAF company.
An investigation showed this was not so, the former president said.
“If only my logical and legal orders were followed, the tragedy of Mamasapano would not have happened,” Aquino said.
The former president also denied any US involvement in the mission to neutralize the terrorist Marwan, who carried a $5-million bounty.
Aquino said he never spoke to any Americans about and that any US assistance was limited to the “equipment and hardware” used to gather intelligence on the targets.
Aquino also refuted President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that then peace adviser Teresita Deles gave a stand down order for reinforcements to support the pinne commandos, to prevent a collapse in peace talks with Muslim rebels.
“Secretary Ging Deles was not involved in the mission because that was a law enforcement operation,” Aquino said.
On Tuesday, Duterte said he would create a seven-man commission to look into the culpability of Aquino and his officials.
In the same speech, Duterte asked Aquino to explain what really happened.
“Let it be brought in the open. It was an American adventure, with the cooperation of some. And apparently with your blessing,” Duterte said, describing the raid to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, as a CIA operation.
“You said ‘It’s my fault.’ But that’s not enough. Tell me how you sinned,” he added.
A Senate committee report earlier said that Aquino was ‘’ultimately responsible’’ for the botched mission.
Despite Duterte’s tirades, Aquino never mentioned Purisima in his three-page statement.
Aquino’s former spokeswoman Abigail Valte played down this omission.
“The exclusion of the former PNP chief, Alan Purisima, it’s not because of anything,” Valte told GMA News.
“The President felt that it was Napeñas who was the ground commander and who should have given the information to the chain of command and reiterated a number of times in the past that all people above him were dependent on the information and calculations made by Napeñas,” she added.
Napeñas, however, insisted that all officials involved should be held liable, including Aquino, who approved of the covert operation.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, scored former presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda for saying that the commission to be formed on the Mamasapano case would produce “alternative facts.”
“There is no such thing as alternative facts; there are only true facts,” Panelo told radio dwIZ.
“What we’re finding here is the truth. If you can remember during the Senate hearings, and the investigation by the PNP, both investigations point to the ultimate accountability and responsibility of the former president. We want to know the truth.”
Also on Thursday, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano shot back at his colleagues for saying that the reinvestigation of the Mamasapano debacle aimed to divert public attention from abuses of the present administration.
“It is hypocritical on the part of Senators [Antonio] Trillanes and [Leila] De Lima to oppose the reopening of the investigation, when they pretend to be the staunchest advocates of human rights and justice,” Cayetano, Duterte’s losing running mate, said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rio N. Araja