Lawmakers suspect House cover-up
Malacañang may have had a hand in the decision of the House of Representatives to suspend, indefinitely, its inquiry into the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, according to lawmakers and a respected political analyst.
Opposition congressmen on Tuesday said the House leadership stopped the probe to shield President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his close friend, resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, from accountability in the death of the 44 policemen.
House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list and fellow Makabayan bloc members Terry Ridon of Kabataan and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers made the accusation in light of the decision of the House to shelve the investigation of the Mamasapanao clash for two weeks or until the Philippine National Police-formed Board of Inquiry (BOI) has finished its investigation of the incident.
“The hearing should have pushed through because the BOI won’t be credible enough to investigate and come up with an objective decision because they are subordinates of the President. For one, the President has exonerated himself from any liability in his past two national addresses,” Colmenares said in a news conference.
“This inquiry has got too toxic and too hot to handle for the Palace because they know Purisima will be quizzed and he can’t invoke executive privilege when that time comes since it has to be invoked by the President himself. In such a situation, he can’t lie,” Ridon, a lawyer, said.
The lawmakers were referring to Purisima’s repeated stance that he needs to secure clearance from the President before disclosing their conversation in meetings before the top-secret mission to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was carried out by the the SAF commandos.
“Binusalan ang Kongreso [Congress was gagged]. And this is damaging,” Tinio said.
Professor Ramon Casiple, a political analyst, suspects that the probe was stopped because administration allies at the House may be having a difficult time toeing Malacañang’s line in so far as the operation plan (Oplan) Exodus is concerned.
But Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. denied that the House is gagging its members to protect the President.
“The President does not need any protecting. If the BOI won’t be able to give its output in two weeks, we’ll have to continue. The suspension of hearings [was made]for [it to become]more efficient. In fact, I will insist that Purisima face us and answer questions,” Belmonte told reporters.
“We are not gagging anybody. If I cannot gag Makabayan anyway, why will I gag the others?” he said.
The House of Representatives is dominated by Aquino’s allies.
Militant labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) also sees the suspension of the investigation as a deliberate attempt on the part of Malacañang to buy time and rearrange the whole “script.”
“All indicators show that Aquino and United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg are directly liable for the Mamasapano tragedy,” Gie Relova of the BMP said.
The group said the admission of SAF commander Getulio Napenas that he sought US assistance in the evacuation of the wounded troops on January 25 indicates the intervention of the United States in the operation.
Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC, is also convinced that the House panel hearing is part of Malacañang’s intention to protect the President from any liability for the tragic operation.
“The investigation is part of politics. The head of the House panel conducting the hearing along with the LP [Liberal Party] legislators are all playing their part,” Jimenez said.
But Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said there is nothing wrong with the US government sharing intelligence with the Philippines.
Trillanes, a former member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said the US and the Philippines share intelligence information because they are allies.
He added that since the Philippines has no special intelligence capability, any help in intelligence gathering should be welcomed.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed with Trillanes, saying the US government is known to assist in military training and provide equipment.
But he expressed doubts that Washington would participate in any military mission since that would be a serious violation of Philippine laws.