PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd could be held liable for abetting, condoning and allowing the usurpation of public office because he allowed a suspended police chief to take control of a mission to capture two terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25, Father Ranhilio Aquino, dean of San Beda College of Law Graduate School, said on Monday.
Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima had been under suspension by the Sandiganbayan at the time of the police operation in Mamasapano.
“Not only is he abetting, condoning and allowing the usurpation of public office. One can even say that the usurpation could not have taken place had it not been for the President because how can a suspended PNP chief give orders unless he does so by authority of his superior who is the President himself?” Aquino said in an interview aired over dzMM.
The priest was reacting to a video that went viral on various social media sites showing suspended Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas briefing top defense and police officials on January 26, 2015, a day after 44 SAF troops were killed by rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano.
“My first reaction [after watching the video]was my goodness this opens a whole can of worms at dapat ito’y pinakinggan sa Senado [and the Senate should have listened to it]and before the other investigating bodies because it says a lot,” he said.
Aquino said the leaked video also showed Napeñas’ attempt to shield high-ranking officials, citing leading questions asked by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd during a briefing held at the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
“Very important he [Napeñas] said we briefed the President. He went on to say ‘My advice to the President was that we let the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] know at time on target.’ In other words, it is very clear that the President was briefed, that he knew what was happening and that he agreed that the AFP would be informed at the time Napeñas said they would be informed so I don’t think in the light of what Napeñas now said the President cannot claim na hindi nya alam kung ano ang nangyayari [that he did not know what was happening],” the priest added.
He urged the several panels investigating the massacre of the 44 SAF commandos to consider watching the video and include it in their probe.
“In fact, the Senate and the [House] should pay attention to it because this is a smoking gun at kung hindi nila i-consider ito [and if they do not consider this], then it would be very clear that there is willful omission of necessary evidence,” Aquino pointed out.
The priest said Napeñas admitted in the same video that he was taking orders from Purisima.
“Kung ikaw ba naman ay subordinate officer at alam mo kung kanino nanggagaling ang [If you are a subordinate officer and you know where the command is coming from] command why do you take an order from a suspended official? There is only one answer for that. Kaya ka tumatanggap ng mga utos ng isang suspendidong opisyal kasi alam mo ang nasa likod niya ang ultimate commander [You accept orders from a suspended official because you know that behind him is the ultimate commander, the President],” Aquino added.
The priest maintained that the President was telling half-truths when he addressed the nation for the second time last month. He cited in particular Mr. Aquino’s question: “Bakit itinuloy ang misyon gayong napakalihis na nito sa orihinal na plano, at napakalaking peligro na ang kinakaharap ng ating mga tropa [Why was the mission carried out despite its deviation from the original plan, and our troops faced great danger]?”he said
“That is a half-truth because kung pakinggan mo yun [because if you listen to it, it is as if he does not know what is happening. But this video makes it very clear na alam niya [that he knows],” he said.
Aquino added that the President should apologize to the nation “out of decency” and own up to his responsibility.
He also appealed to the Senate and other investigating bodies to come up with a credible and transparent public report on the Mamasapano tragedy.
The Board of Inquiry (BOI) formed by the PNP to probe the Mamasapano incident is wrapping up its work, according to PNP spokesman and Chief Supt. Genereso Cerbo Jr.
Cerbo said members of the panel led by Director Benjamin Magalon had just returned from Maguindanao where they gathered statements of personalities who were involved or had any knowledge about the incident.
The BOI, Cerbo said, is completing its report. He added that Purisima had submitted his sworn statement while Roxas has expressed his willingness to cooperate in the investigation.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said also on Monday that it has gathered the statements and affidavits of several witnesses.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, refused to disclose the identities of the witnesses.
WITH ANTHONY VARGAS AND JOMAR CANLAS