THE botched Mamasapano raid that killed 44 police commandos in January 2015 was an operation of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that was covered up by the previous Aquino administration, President Rodrigo Duterte bared on Thursday.
Duterte met the families of the slain members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) in Malacañang and announced that he will form a seven-member commission to reopen the investigation into the incident, as well as declare a day of remembrance.
“Why did you hide the fact that it was an operation of the CIA?” he said, addressing himself to former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“Let it be brought out in the open. It was an American adventure with the cooperation of some, and apparently with your blessing,” he said.
The Manila Times was the first to report extensively on the US involvement in the operation in February 2015, citing a reliable source who said the SAF men went to Mamasapano, Maguindanao only to act as security escorts for American agents tasked to capture or pick up international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan who had a $6-million bounty from the United States government, and the Filipino terrorist Usman who carried a $1-million reward on his head.
The Times also reported that an American was among those found dead and apparently left behind in the evacuation.
‘Deles stopped rescue’
Duterte also accused former presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles of stopping Aquino from sending Army men to rescue the SAF commandos who were attacked by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and allied groups, so as not to jeopardize peace talks with the rebels.
Analysis of the events surrounding the Mamasapano operation point to Aquino as the one who eventually made the “stand down” order, The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante A. Ang reported in February 2015.
“Deles, I do not want to, you know, belabor. You were the peace negotiator. And for me, you were the one who told [Aquino] not to send reinforcements because war will break out, because then you have violated the agreement that you should not enter MILF territory,” Duterte said.
“So why did you enter into an operation which was really placing in jeopardy the lives [of the SAF members]?”
Deles however said the issue raised by Duterte was not new.
“Thank God I’m in Kathmandu and Mt Everest stands by the truth! I hope media will remind him that I already went through the grill on that,” she said when informed of the President’s statement.
Like Agrava commission
Duterte said the Mamasapano fact-finding commission will be “independent,” composed of former Supreme Court justices, lawyers and civilians.
“I will create a commission, and appoint men of integrity and honor to investigate,” the President said.
“You can summon and even ask the United States government of their participation and where did the reward money went,” he added.
“We will bestow to the commission the powers exactly given to the Agrava Commission,” the President said, referring to the body that probed the 1983 assassination of Aquino’s father, Benigno Aquino Jr.