President Benigno Aquino 3rd has approved the release to the Senate of a transcript of his text messages to former national police chief Alan Purisima in the early morning of January 25 to shed light on his involvement in an operation in which 44 police operatives were killed in a clash with armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Malacañang deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte on Friday said Aquino acceded to requests for transparency regarding his text messages and “this is in keeping with upholding the dignity of the [O]ffice [of the President]and maintaining the principle of separation of powers and respect for a co-equal branch of government.”
“President Aquino has been unwavering in his support for truth-seeking regarding the Mamasapano incident and encourages any action that would contribute to arriving at the truth at the soonest possible time,” Valte added.
More than 200 police Special Action Force commandos launched the operation in Mamasapano, a Muslim rebel stronghold, to capture terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman.
They killed Marwan but Usman escaped and the commandos clashed with the armed groups when they withdrew.
An angry nation heaped blame on Aquino and Purisima for the death of the policemen, who were pinned down and were calling for reinforcement but no help came from the Armed Forces.
The text messages between the President and Purisima were expected to shed light on who was in command of the Mamasapano operation.
Valte said the President has given his consent to release the transcript and “they leave it to responsible members of Congress to arrive at a methodology that will aid their investigation.”
She reminded the legislators that the “the inquiry should remain focused on its primary mission to uncover the truth.”
“In this manner, the process will not be abused by those who might be inclined to take advantage of the occasion to advance personal motives,” Valte said.
Sen. Loren Legarda said she requested a full transcript of the SMS (short messaging system) exchange and the joint Senate committee looking into the issue has ordered Smart Communications to submit a copy of the textexchange between Aquino and Purisima from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. on January 25.
“Not that I do not trust the sources of the text messages, but I requested that the text messages from the telcos be subpoenaed,” Legarda added.
The joint panel chairman, Sen. Grace Poe, also reminded the senators that summoning private and privileged information without consent of those involved is illegal.
“Even if we issue a subpoena for those phone records, without the approval of the account holder or the subscriber, the company or the telcos can ask for intervention of the courts,” Poe said.
Replying to the summons, Smart said “its system is not capable of tracking the contents of SMS [short messaging service]but only the log of the time and numbers and that require either a court order or written consent from the subscriber for it to comply.”
The Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI), which was formed a day after the clash, said in its report that Purisima, who was serving a six-month suspension since December 5 for involvement in an allegedly anomalous PNP courier contract in 2011, should not have intervened in the operation.
“All the power and authority vested in Purisima as [PNP chief] ceased to exist on the day his suspension order was served,” the PNP-BOI report read.
Other than the 44 policemen, at least 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians were killed in the gunbattle that lasted several hours.
The killings have snagged passage in Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will implement a peace agreement between the government and the MILF and end decades of war in Mindanao.