A bungled police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, is not solid enough to cause the removal of President Benigno Aquino 3rd from power, a Malacañang spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The Palace insisted that the President did not break any law during the Mamasapano mission, and that he was not to blame for the debacle.
Its deputy spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, said notwithstanding findings of the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry (PNP-BOI) and the Senate committee on public order and security and dangerous drugs, which separately investigated the botched January 25 operation, there are not enough grounds to impeach the President.
Both the PNP-BOI and the Senate panel found Aquino “ultimately responsible” for the mission that resulted in the killing of 44 Special Action Force troops and for violating the PNP chain of command.
A draft Senate report was signed by at least 20 senators as of 7 p.m. last night, the office of Sen. Grace Poe said. Poe, who presided over the Senate inquiry, presented a summary of the report to the media on Tuesday.
“Obviously, we do not think so… As far as the executive is concerned, of course, we do not agree,” Valte said, referring to calls for the President to either resign or get impeached.
She, however, added that it is up to the House of Representatives to decide whether there are enough grounds to remove Aquino.
“At this point, it would be more important for them to look at Congress to see how its leaders feel about any moves to impeach the President,” Valte said.
According to her, the President showed leadership in the Mamasapano incident.
“I think you also have to look at how the President has dealt with the incident and how he has comported himself not just in the days after the incident itself but in succeeding days and weeks,” she said.
“He has continually look after the plight of the families that have been left behind,” Valte added.
Malacanang said Aquino may not be a “perfect President” but to make him apologize is far-fetched because “he was not given correct information.”
“I say this not because of my estimation but he had said this in the past, ‘Hindi ako perpektong tao at hindi rin ako perpektong Pangulo [I am not a perfect person and I am also not a perfect President].’ I think that particular statement from him shows a lot as well,” Valte said.
She added that she believes Aquino could have done better if he was given the right information.
“You have to take it from the point of view of the President that he was not given correct information at the time that it was necessary. If you go back to the testimony that was given in the Senate hearings as well as the hearings in the [House of Representatives], the text to him, the first text to him informing him that artillery support was present and that extraction was ongoing… it was quite apparent and quite obvious that there was no urgency as it was presented to him, as it was conveyed to him,” Valte said.
She was referring to resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima’s role in Oplan Exodus, which intended to neutralize high-value targets in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.
Aquino previously blamed Purisima for giving him incorrect updates through text message, including the information that artillery and mechanized support were being used in aiding the embattled police commandos.
Meanwhile, Valte said the President stands ready to face lawsuits in the future, confident that none would prosper.
“He has made decisions that have, in his own words, upset the rice bowls of many, and that he is prepared and he expects that when he steps down, there will, there may be cases that may be filed against him,” she added.
She was reacting to a suggestion from former President Fidel Ramos that Aquino should admit his mistake and apologize to somehow relieve himself of pressure.
Ramos, in a news conference also on Wednesday said when he stepped down from office, he faced three Senate blue ribbon investigations and that Aquino should also expect the same treatment once his turn comes up.
But Valte said the Presideng does not mind, because “even before the January 25 incident the President has already been aware that he will be making decisions that may not please people.”