FORMER president Benigno Aquino 3rd wants to “double-check the facts” with his lawyers before answering claims he had authorized and then covered up the involvement of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the failed Mamasapano anti-terrorist operation.
“We just want to make sure in our reply that we have double-checked all of the facts. So I’ve been spending this morning checking on those facts,” Aquino told reporters on Wednesday at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City, where he visited his parents’ tombs.
On Tuesday, President Duterte took Aquino to task for supposedly failing to sufficiently explain to the public why the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015 resulted in the deaths of 44 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF).
Aside from demanding an explanation from Aquino, Duterte also ordered the creation of an independent commission to look into the incident, including the alleged US involvement in the ill-fated operation.
Speaking before the families of the slain SAF commandos in Malacañang, the President said Aquino fed the SAF troopers “to the lion’s den to be eaten by death.”
“Why did you send the SAF when SAF is organized and geared into the service to meet the challenges of urban terrorism? … Why the police? Why not the army with artillery?” he asked.
The President also claimed that former presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles stopped Aquino from ordering the military’s air assets to support the beleaguered police commandos so as not to jeopardize peace talks with Muslim rebels.
But Deles denied Duterte’s claim, saying “That allegation is a lie. It is not true.”
“The records of the House and Senate hearings bear me out. It would do well for the President to read the reports and refrain from engaging in alternative facts,” Deles said in a statement.
It was Aquino, however, who first raised the idea of an “alternative truth” or “alternative version” of the Mamasapano incident, in which he drew flak for allowing a close friend, the then PNP chief Alan Purisima, to direct the operation even if the latter had been suspended over a graft case.
In September 2015, Aquino said in Iloilo: “So our job is to find out what is really the truth. [Is it] the first version, the alternative version, or a combination of both versions? Because, again I want to emphasize, we are not saying that we are certain that this ‘alternative version’ is the truth. We are not discounting the possibility that the alternative version is totally false.”
Aquino’s former spokesman Edwin Lacierda also dismissed Duterte’s allegations as “alternative facts.”
“President forms Mamasapano commission, claimed Deles advised Pnoy (Aquino) to order standdown. Not true.
Alternative commission, alternative facts,” Lacierda said in a Twitter post.