Sen. Grace Poe should no longer preside over the Senate probe on the Mamasapano massacre that left 44 members of the Special Action Force dead, the Liberal Party (LP) said Friday.
Akbayan Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez, one of the spokespersons of the ruling party, was referring to the reopening on January 25 of the investigation by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Poe.
The Senate Committee on Rules led by Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano allowed the fresh probe based on the request of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who claims that he has new evidence on the matter.
Poe’s panel has wrapped its hearings and came out with a Committee Report signed by 21 out of the 24 senators. The report said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ultimate responsibility for the bloodbath because he allowed then Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima to lead the planning and implementation of the operation to go after terrorists in Mindanao despite his suspension by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on graft charges.
“I welcome the statement of Senator Poe that she will just serve as the moderator instead of asking questions. But since she is at it, I say it would be better for her to inhibit from the proceedings [since she is a candidate in May],” Gutierrez said.
He noted that Poe also sought the inhibition of three Supreme Court justices who had earlier participated in the deliberation of the disqualification case against the senator at the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
“She has espoused that the justices should exercise delicadeza (propriety), and that call could also be applied here [in the Mamasapano hearing]. It would be better if the Presiding Officer is not a candidate,” Gutierrez said. “They should let other senators who are not running to conduct the probe.”
But Aquino believes that the reopening of the Senate investigation was politically motivated.
“Well, we are aware that the campaign period is coming soon. Among our opponents, they see that this has been the greatest burden I have had since I took office. Perhaps they are trying to take this opportunity,” the President said.
“Of course, as President, as the father of the nation, I can’t let emotions take over here…You know, January 25 is my mother’s birthday, the first anniversary of the Mamasapano incident, it’s like they are insisting that you must suffer here. Now, there is a saying, we can see it in the teachings of the church that I belong to, in the Bible, ‘the truth shall set us all free’,” he added.
Two Senate committees tasked to investigate the carnage agreed to reconvene on January 25, exactly a year after the special operation to neutralize Malaysian terrorist and bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” led to the death of 44 police commandos, 14 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, and some civilians.
Citing his experience in the Senate and alluding to Poe, Aquino said it was an insult for a committee chair and members if a report would be brought back to those who crafted it.
“So I asked if things have changed in the Senate, and the Senate President answered me that the committee chair did not refuse so that is why it (report) was returned to the committee. If the committee chair had refused, the plenary would have voted whether the report would be returned to them or not,” he added.
The President believes that the “mastermind” behind the reopening of the inquiry may have ill-feelings toward his Administration.
“We can see that politics is a big factor. Perhaps we should not forget who initiated this,” he said.
He admitted though that the reopening of the inquiry was a good opportunity to “complete the picture” of what really happened during the bloody clash.