Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City initially ruled out but eventually decided to push with a congressional inquiry into the Mamasapano operation in Maguindanao that left 44 elite police commandos dead last January 25 in the hands of separatist rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Belmonte on Monday said the probe will start next week so as to give time to resource persons to condole with the families of the fallen commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The operation had targeted Afghanistan-trained bomb-makers Zulkipli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.
“There is no gag order or whitewash here because I, too, want to get to the bottom of this. But we also have to understand that their [resource persons]hands are still full attending to funeral services for a large number of their slain colleagues while also conducting their own investigations of the incident,” Belmonte said
He announced on Monday morning that a House probe of the Mamasapano incident will only take off after the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI) finishes its investigation of the failed mission.
His stance, however, changed by the afternoon, with the House Committee on Public Order and Safety headed by Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer having sent invitations to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, PNP Officer-In-Charge and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Police Director Getulio Napeñas to a hearing scheduled for February 3.
Espina declined the invitation while Roxas and Napeñas are yet to confirm their attendance.
The PNP-BOI will be led by Espina.
Its members are Police Director Edgardo Ingking, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Western Mindanao; Police Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group; and Chief Superintendent Catalino Rodriguez Jr., former Northern Mindanao regional police chief and now head of the Directorate for Research and Development.
For Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Isabela, House justice panel vice chairman, and House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list, the BOI’s probe should not stop the House of Representatives from conducting its own quiz, citing investigative powers of legislators.
“It is best for the House to conduct an inquiry immediately so that witnesses will have a better recollection of the events, and it could be guided accordingly in enacting the BBL,” Fariñas said in a text message, referring to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Colmenares said the PNP-BOI cannot be objective in investigating the case of their 44 fallen comrades because they will be forced to look into the role of their superiors—including suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and President Benigno Aquino 3rd—in the operation against Marwan and Usman.
“President Aquino has refused to admit accountability and laid the blame on the SAF for supposedly disobeying his order to coordinate. He even exonerated General Purisima when he declared Purisima was no longer involved when he was suspended. The BOI will never hold [the President]accountable after that speech, which practically preempted the board’s decision,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“Worse, General Purisima will return as PNP chief in a few months, which again compromises the BOI decision. If Congress wants to give justice to the SAF families, we must hold accountable those who sent the SAF men to their death,” he added.