UNISAN, Quezon: Former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas on Friday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd lacks the courage to take responsibility for the ill-fated anti-terrorist police operation in Mamasapano that had led to the deaths of 44 SAF members last year.
Napeñas made the statement during a proclamation rally of local candidates in this province that was attended by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
He is one of the senatorial candidates of UNA in the May 2016 elections.
“Ngayon inilaglag ako. Ngayon pinapasagot sakin lahat. Tinanggal lahat ng benepisyo ko. Masasabi ko, kung gagawa sila ng trabaho, they have to own it. Hindi ipapasa ‘yung responsibilidad sa ibang tao. Walang bayag. Tama po ba [Now, he’s dropping me. Now, he wants me to answer for everything. He stripped me of all my benefits. I say to him, if they are going to do something, they have to own it. They should not pass on the blame. He has no balls. Isn’t that right]?” Napeñas said.
“Even here, I have to tell the President himself dito sa harapan [right here]: Wala kang bayag [You have no balls],” he repeated.
Napeñas alleged it was not he but Aquino who broke the chain of command.
“Kinasuhan ako ng usurpation of authority. Paano ako magkaroon ng usurpation of authority na Pangulo ang nag-utos ng trabaho? ‘Di po ba? Nakakatawa [I was charged with usurpation of authority. How will I commit it when it was the President who gave the orders? Right? That is absurd],” he said.
“Pinayagan ko raw ang sarili ko na ma-induce ni General [Alan] Purisima to perform an illegal act. Hindi ko maintindihan. Pangulo na nga ang nag-uutos e, how could I ever be induced by General Purisima eh siya nga nag-uutos through General Purisima? [They alleged that I allowed myself to be prompted by General Purisima to perform an illegal act.
I don’t understand it. It was the President himself making the orders, how could I ever be induced by General Purisima when (Aquino) was the one giving the orders through General Purisima?],” Napenas added.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman said it found sufficient grounds to file charges for graft and usurpation of authority before the Sandiganbayan against former PNP Director General Alan Purisima and Napeñas for their alleged participation in the planning of the counter-terrorist police operation in Mamasapano last year despite Purisima being under preventive suspension.
The respondents can still file motions for reconsideration of the Ombudsman’s ruling.
“Sana po kayo na nga ang maghusga at mabigyang-linaw ‘yung mga nasa Ombudsman o kung sino man doon sa Sandiganbayan na ilalaban ko ito hanggang sa kahuli-hulihan.
Hindi ako papayag [I leave it up to you to judge and I hope those at the Ombudsman or at the Sandiganbayan are enlightened that I will see this fight through to the end],” Napeñas said.
The Ombudsman also found Purisima and Napeñas administratively liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
But because Purisima was ordered dismissed from the service in June 2015 and Napeñas retired in July 2015, the penalty imposed was a fine equivalent to their salaries for one year.
They also face perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service, forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of civil service eligibility.
“Maliit na lang na halaga, ‘yan ang masakit sakin. Kaya sabi ko, ilalaban ko hanggang sa kadulo’t duluhan [It’s just a small amount, that is what hurts. That is why I said, I will fight for this till the end],” Napeñas said.
The charges are in connection with the police operation in Mamasapano in 2015 that ended in the deaths of more than 60 people.
The operation, known as Oplan Exodus, aimed to capture international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his protégé Abdulbasit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped.
The 44 PNP-SAF members who were part of the operation were left dead in a cornfield in a firefight with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups.
Members of the MILF and civilians were also among the casualties.
De Lima: Napenas case nod to accountability
The Ombudsman finding probable cause in the case of Napenas “brings us a step closer in demanding accountability for the death of 64 people, including 44 SAF commandos, 17 Moro combatants and 3 civilians who were caught in the crossfire” in Mamasapano.
The statement came also on Friday from former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, now a senatorial candidate running under the ticket of the Liberal Party.
“While this is just one aspect of the case, this development will be instrumental in giving justice to those who died on that fateful day,” de Lima said.
With the case on its way to the Sandiganbayan, the former chief Justice expressed hope that “justice will be served at the soonest time, so that we can help bring closure to the families of the victims of this incident, and move forward in our commitment to the peace process.”
She said, “Let us keep in mind that the pursuit of justice is not just seeking accountability from those involved, but must also include attaining peace and unity, where cultural rights are respected, so that communities in conflict-afflicted areas can exercise their right to self-determination.”