AFTER a thorough review of what has been established and opened up by the official inquiries, and of some new information that has recently been revealed, The Manila Times is now fully convinced that there is an urgent and compelling necessity for the nation, as represented by Congress, to conduct a further and more thorough inquiry into the Mamasapano incident and tragedy. Or, as we urged before, create an independent inquiry commission.
We say this not because we have come upon an “alternate version” or “truth” of what happened in that municipality of Maguindanao province.
We say this not to denigrate or reject the facts already established by the official inquiries, but to affirm that there are other vital facts that were not ferreted out.
We take this position because we believe the official inquiries did not finish the job. There are too many loose ends and questions that were left hanging by the probers. And there is incontrovertible information now being circulated in social media and international media, that sheds a different light on Mamasapano that has not entered into the investigation and conclusions of the official inquries.
One such information is the revelation made by one prestigious newspaper in the United States, that the US military and government played a major role in the conduct of Oplan Exodus on January 25 this year.
We mean here the explosive report of the Los Angeles Times that was published on September 16 in its printed and online editions.
Entitled “Heavy price paid for botched terrorist raid by Philippines and U.S.”, the article was written and reported by David Cloud, LA Times reporter, and Sunshine de Leon, LA Times stringer in Manila.
In summary, Cloud and de Leon reported that the US had a major role in the Mamasapano operation last January. Soon after the bungled raid, the government of President Benigno Aquino 3rd officially delayed plans to give the US wider access to military bases that the Obama administration sought for its strategic “pivot” to Asia. The US in turn packed up and withdrew troops that it had stationed in Mindanao for anti-terrorist operations.
(The LA Times article can be accessed online via this link; http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-botched-terror-raid-20150910-story.html. We have also reprinted it on P5.)
This is major news because throughout the official inquiry President Aquino and Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario repeatedly declared that the US did not play any role in the Mamasapano operation. And the US embassy in Manila echoed them. They all lied.
In fact, as the LA Times report shows, American troops and agents were involved in planning the operation and in training the SAF commandos involved in the raid. On the day of the operation, US troops flew drones to shadow the hideout of Marwan and MILF movements.
Some senators, notably Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., have opposed the reopening of the Mamasapano inquiry in the Senate, on the grounds that the facts have already been uncovered. Unless there is new information to tackle, they will block the reopening of the Senate inquiry.
We disagree. The revelation of heavy US involvement in the incident is new information that must be thoroughly examined – not for politics or publicity, but to establish closure for the victims and their families and the nation.
Likewise, the inquiries never provided a satisfactory response to the question why President Aquino was never asked to give information on his role in planning and approving the SAF operation, and his inexpicable refusal to order rescue operations to save the lives of the beleaguered SAF commandos. He even, we think criminally, told the military men raring to rescue the besieged PNP-SAF 44 commandos to “stand down.”
A reopened inquiry will investigate these two key strands of the story. The US should help by shedding light on its role. And President Aquino should be compelled to testify, either in open session in the Senate or in executive session. It may be that what he has not revealed is the reason why he seems to know that there is an “alternate version” of what happened in Mamasapano.
A reopened inquiry should feature a new cast of probers and some able lawyers to provide legal counsel.
It should not be headed by Sen. Grace Poe, who failed, or deliberately refused, to deliver a committee report on her inquiry to the Senate plenary, and is now a declared candidate for president. Ms. Poe provided only an executive summary of a report that does not exist. Her participation as chairman is out of the question because she clearly does not have the competence to head and moral will to conduct a thorough investigation.
A reopened Senate inquiry still falls short of what we in the Times originally believed was required for the Mamasapano tragedy to reach closure. We said back in February that Congress should create an independent commission of inquiry that should be given full powers to subpoena witnesses and records. Such a commission would have fully investigated the incident, pursued all the leads, and asked all the questions that needed to be asked.
A reopened Senate inquiry, if properly conducted and given full cooperation by the Philippine National Police and the AFP, will tie up the loose ends and uncover the loose threads.
And this time around, the nation will make sure that a full committee report is written and published. This time, we will do it right.