SEN. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to let go of resigned national police chief Alan Purisima and charge him for the death of 44 police commandos in the infamous January 25 Mamasapano incident.
The senator, in a privileged speech, also accused the President of holding the entire police service hostage for refusing to appoint a permanent replacement for Purisima, who resigned from his post in the aftermath of the botched police operation in Maguindanao last January.
Marcos noted that Purisima will return to active duty after serving the six-month suspension that the Ombudsman imposed on him on charges of graft.
“How in heaven’s name can we even allow this man to remain as a police officer? Why can’t we do the only decent thing of removing Purisima and hauling him to court for leading our SAF [Special Action Force] 44 to their graves?” he said.
“Why is our President holding the PNP [Philippine National Police] hostage to the whims and caprices of a few? Why doesn’t our President heed the call of the people for the outright removal of General Purisima from the service, not just from his perch as PNP chief?” Marcos added.
The Mamasapano incident refers to the January 25, 2015 “law enforcement mission” to serve an arrest warrant against Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and his Filipino cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.
Marwan was killed in an ensuing clash but the group of Special Action Force troops that were to serve as a blocking force encountered heavily armed men that included members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and were overrun.
Purisima, then serving a Sandiganbayan suspension order, allegedly had a hand in the operation. He however, repeatedly insisted that he merely gave “advice” to senior officers who supervised the mission.
Purisima resigned as PNP chief nearly two weeks after the incident but managed to retain his rank and tenure as a police director-general.
Deputy Director-General for Administration Leonardo Espina, who was next in line, assumed command and remained as officer-in-charge. Espina will bow out of the service on July 16 when he turns 56, the mandatory retirement age for police and military personnel.
Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said he is one of those who applauded the President when he went on live television on February 6 to announce he was accepting Purisima’s resignation.
“Eh, bakit ngayon ay naririyan pa siya? [Why is he still there]?” Marcos said, adding that, apparently, what is holding the President from appointing a permanent PNP chief is that there is a special plan for Purisima.
“I admire our President’s fidelity to General Purisima. I salute him and give him credit for standing by his man to show gratitude for his service and loyalty,” the senator said.
He added that Purisima’s retention at the PNP is an insult not only to the widows and families of the SAF 44 but the entire police organization as well.
“This is absurd. This is unfair not only to the people and to the widows and families of our SAF 44, but more particularly to the members of our police force,” Marcos said.
He reminded the President that the debacle in Mamasapano was the reason why the Bangsamoro Basic Law became so unpopular.
Marcos said sacking Purisima would give justice to the fallen SAF troops.
“Fire Purisima. Charge him in court for usurpation of authority or official functions, for violating the chain of command, for gross misconduct and negligence that needlessly cost the lives of our policemen, among other serious violations. Throw the book at him. Appoint a permanent PNP chief,” he added.
Marcos, however, said the bloody Mamasapano incident and Purisima are not just an issue between friends but have become a larger issue for the entire Filipino nation.
“Napapanahon na, Mr. President, na mabigyan ng katarungan ang ating magigiting na SAF 44 [It’s about time, Mr. President, that our brave SAF 44 be given justice].
Fire Purisima. Charge him in court for usurpation of authority or official functions, for violating the chain of command, for gross misconduct and negligence that needlessly cost the lives of our policemen, among other serious violations. Throw the book at him. Appoint a permanent PNP chief,” he reiterated.
In the same speech, Marcos urged the MILF to join the entire nation in the search for peace and renounce violence to demonstrate sincerity in their peace talks with the Philippine government.
“I challenge the MILF to demonstrate their sincerity in achieving peace by helping our Department of Justice in the speedy investigation of the Mamasapano massacre.
I challenge the MILF leadership to identify and bring the killers of our SAF 44 to justice. I challenge the MILF to demonstrate that they are our partners for peace by bowing to the force of reason rather than the reason of force,” he said.
The senator also appealed to the MILF to make good on its promise not to resort to violence if Congress amends or revises the original BBL, noting that lawmakers are bound by the Constitution.
He, however, noted that the draft BBL violates numerous provisions in the Constitution.
Also, Marcos said that when the BBL was drafted, no consultations were held with other important stakeholders, such as the Moro National Liberation Front, the indigenous people, the sultanates and the business sector, among others.
“My task, therefore, as chairman of the committee on local government is to ensure that our proposed law for the Bangsamoro is inclusive, and that all affected sectors of society are heard. Moreover, we have to ensure that the various provisions that run counter to our Constitution are rectified. It won’t be easy. But it has to be done if want peace in our time,” he added.
Marcos said he is willing to listen to the MILF and all those who have something relevant to say about the BBL to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
According to him, he is readying a substitute bill to the draft BBL that he expects to submit when the Senate resumes session in July.
“As a Filipino, I do not want any more blood to be spilled between our soldiers and the MILF. We are all Filipinos. We should welcome the clash of ideas no matter how challenging they may be, in the spirit of brotherhood. We should embrace our disagreements as a demonstration of our commitment to an equitable and enduring peace;,peace in Mindanao; peace in the land,” Marcos said.
Leave of absence
Purisima whose six months’ suspension lapsed on Tuesday will not be reporting back at the PNP headquarters in Quezon City (Metro Manila) as he filed a month-long leave of absence, according to a police official.
While he could no longer reassume as PNP chief, Purisima is considered on “duty status” (although on floating status or unassigned) and is thus required to report for work everyday.
Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, PNP spokesman, said Purisima’s leave request was approved and will take effect starting June.
Purisima has an accumulated leave credits of more than 1,000 days. While on leave, Purisima will still get his monthly salary of more than P100,000 until the time he retires when he turns 56 on November 21.
Tobias said Purisima can opt to use his leave credits up to the day he retires or go on non-duty status three months before he actually leave the police service.
Purisima will be the second highest-ranked police official to be placed on floating status.
In 1998, then PNP chief, Director-General Santiago Aliño, remained in the service until his retirement after President Joseph Estrada replaced him with Director Roberto Lastimoso.
WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN