Malacañang on Tuesday kept mum on the supposed death of a “Caucasian” male during the infamous Mamasapano operation last January and other details that may substantiate President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s claim of an “alternative version” on what really transpired during the implementation of Oplan (Operational Plan): Exodus.
“The President emphasized that it is important for the truth to be known so that the lessons from what happened in Mamasapano may serve as a guide for future action and decision-making. Finding the truth is a pathway towards attaining the ends of justice,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
In a news briefing, the Palace official refused to answer directly whether the President had received a similar report in the aftermath of the Mamasapano carnage where 44 elite police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos perished.
“The President prefers not to dwell on specific details as this may hamper the efforts in ferreting out the truth. Wala akong tuwirang impormasyon tungkol diyan [I have no information on that],” Coloma said.
On February 1, or just days after the encounter, The Manila Times published an article about the supposed death of a “blue-eyed” Caucasian believed to be an American soldier whose body was among those retrieved by first responders to the scene.
Citing reports from Suara Bangsamoro, a Muslim human rights group, the paper quoted witnesses as saying that at least one “white” soldier was recovered after the duel.
It said the witness, a 40-year-old farmer, was even able to touch the nose of the dead serviceman.
Suara spokesman Jerome Succor Aba said they were able to interview the farmer in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano. The witness said he saw the body of the American minutes after the fierce firefight.
Aba added that civilians arrived in the area after troops of the MILF withdrew to the Islamic Center in Sitio Inubog, Barangay Pembalkan, also in Mamasapano.
The SAF operation was believed to be guided by US troops who reportedly provided vital intelligence to the elite police unit.
The US military was reported to have deployed a drone that allowed American Special Forces to monitor in real time the situation on the ground and allegedly provided Filipino commandos with information about the hideout of Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, leader of the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia or the Malaysian Mujahideen Movement allied with Jemaah Islamiyah.
No new Mamasapano probe
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator and vice chairman Mohagher Iqbal thumbed down a planned reopening of the Mamasapano probe.
Belmonte and Iqbal expressed such sentiments during the opening of an exhibit about the proposed Bangsamoro Law in the House of Representatives. “I don’t like to do that [probe again]based on [leaked]pictures or conjectures. Let’s have something concrete first rather than starting rigmarole all over. Let’s establish the facts first before we do such a thing. Let us not play detectives here,” Belmonte pointed out.
“I respect that view [to reopen the probe]but I don’t think it is a wise move to resurrect the issue. Wala tayong pupuntahan niyan eh [We won’t get anywhere with that],” Iqbal said.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI