PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd must come clean on his role in Oplan Exodus that led to the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) men in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 since nobody among his officials has the courage to tell the truth.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made the call on Friday, citing the refusal of Cabinet and military officials to admit to the members of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs who among them was giving Aquino updates about the Mamasapano clash as it happened.
The President was in Zamboanga City with some Cabinet members and military officials on Jan. 25 supposedly to check on a bombing incident that left two people dead.
Marcos noted that in the Senate hearings, none of the officials present—Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief Gregorio Catapang—would want to admit that they informed the President about the clash that day.
“They were just exchanging glances. Nobody could give us a direct answer,” Marcos said in a radio interview on Friday.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local government that is in charge of reviewing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), suspects that the officials choose not to admit who among them informed the President about the Mamasapano clash because they know that they would have to answer the obvious follow up question about the President’s orders after learning of the developments.
“We have to find out what were the instructions of the President because there were reports that his instruction was for the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines to exert best efforts only (in helping the SAF men). That’s a pity if it was only best efforts,” Marcos lamented.
According to Marcos, based on the statement of the military officials who attended the hearing on Thursday, Aquino was only informed about the tragic incident at around 5 p.m. of January 25 after he was briefed by Lt. General Rustico Guerrero, chief of the AFP Western Mindanao Command.
The Senator finds this hard to believe considering that there were information that the President already knew that suspected terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan has been neutralized earlier by the SAF.
Senator Grace Poe said in a separate interview that the failure of the government officials to immediately inform the president about the clash is a sign of incompetence.
Poe noted that they were part of the security cluster and they were with the President that day but they could not even recall if one of them informed Aquino.
“If we accept their statement that they can’t remember, isn’t that a sign of incompetence?” Poe asked.
Meanwhile, Marcos also finds disturbing the testimony of Gen. Catapang, who said that they refused to send in any air assets to help the SAF troops for fear that it might be “misinterpreted” by the MILF as an attack.
“They [AFP] didn’t do it because they were worried about the MILF’s reaction when at that time the MILF fighters were already out there firing and killing the hapless SAF troopers. They gave priority to the peace process over the lives of our SAF men. I simply cannot understand this policy, it’s disturbing to say the least,” Marcos said.
The Senator also refused to buy the claim of the MILF that the “misencounter” stemmed from the failure of the SAF to coordinate with them.
He said that based on reports, the MILF was informed about the encounter between SAF and their fighters at around noon that day but it took them more than four hours to order their men to stop firing at government forces.
Marcos said that the only time the MILF stopped firing was when all the SAF men have been killed.
“So I don’t think it’s true that the SAF did not coordinate,” he said.