BESIDES from suspending, indefinitely, its own inquiry into the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the House of Representatives has also reportedly abandoned its support to the proposal to create an independent truth commission that will investigate the bloody encounter.
The creation of an independent fact-finding body, according to Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, is unlikely to push through because of the absence of a counterpart measure from the House.
“The House did not go for it. So it may not push through. They basically said idaan na lang sa hearing [let’s course it through a hearing],” Aquino said in an interview with reporters on Tuesday.
A truth commission can only be set up if there is a measure duly approved by Congress and signed by the President.
While there is already a measure (Senate Bill 2603) pending at the Senate, a counterpart bill from the House of Representatives is needed.
Senate Bill 2603 seeks to create a fact-finding commission, to be called the “Mamasapano Truth Commission” that will have plenary powers to investigate and report on the tragedy.
Under the proposal, the commission will be vested powers to order any agency to produce needed documents and to cite in contempt those who will defy or delay its mandate to investigate the clash that led to the deaths of 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF).
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, one of the authors of the measure, said the independent commission will thoroughly investigate and ferret out the truth behind the mowing down of the 44 police commandos.
The fact-finding commission will be composed of a chairman and two commissioners who will act as a collegial body.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd will appoint the members of the commission.
Sen. Aquino said he sees no problem even if a truth commission is not established since the inquiry being conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs has been effective in finding out the truth.
“In my own assessment, I’m personally satisfied with the openness of the [Senate] hearings. The resource persons were able to answer directly all the questions,” the senator added.
Guingona, however, said the concerned Senate committees will be conducting the first hearing on the measure next week, which means that the chamber will still push thorough with its move to create a truth commission.
The senator added that while the support of the House of Representatives is crucial, he can only push for the passage of the Senate version.
“I can only do what I can do here [Senate]. That’s up to them [House],” Guingona said in an interview.
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said the Senate will not protect or spare anyone liable for the massacre of policemen and civilians in Maguindanao.
Poe’s committee continued to hear the testimony of former Philippine National Police Intelligence head Fernando Mendez and resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima in an executive session.
Mendez and Purisima were with sacked SAF commander Getulio Napenas when the pre-operation briefing for Oplan Exodus was presented to President Benigno Aquino 3rd on January 9.
It was also during the time when Purisima, who was under a six-month suspension, told Napeñas not to inform Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd and acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina about the mission to capture terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Poe promised to provide the public information discussed during the session that has nothing to do with national security.
One of the issues tackled during the executive session was the supposed involvement of the US in the operation but Minority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd refused to give any information.
Poe said members of the committee will decide if they will still conduct another public hearing.