A special police panel investigating the January 25 Mamasapano encounter that resulted in the death of 44 police commandos has again deferred the submission of its final report, this time citing President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s refusal to cooperate in the probe.
The Board of Inquiry (BOI) was created by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd a day after the clash.
Its report was originally scheduled to be submitted to acting Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, by the end of February but the submission was rescheduled to March 6. Last week, the BOI announced that the submission was rescheduled to Monday, March 9.
Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who also heads the BOI, on Monday said they are asking for three more days to finish the final report. He added that the investigation was nearly complete except that resigned PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima, also refused to be interviewed by BOI probers.
“It will be a lot of help, the follow-up interview with key players such as Purisima and some MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] leaders and AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] officials. We also want to examine their cellphones to know the exchange of text messages,” Magalong said.
At least 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also killed in the encounter, which ignited a firestorm of protests against the Aquino administration. The incident has also threatened to derail passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Magalong said they have asked Aquino to give his account of the events that led to the firefight between the PNP Special Action Force and the MILF but they have not received any response from Malacanang.
He added that they coursed the BOI’s request to the President through Roxas.
“We are trying to find ways [to interview the President]through Interior Secretary Roxas to express our intention to have the President interviewed, but nothing had happened, we have not [yet]received a reply,” Magalong told reporters at Monday’s briefing in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The BOI chairman said he wanted to subject Purisima’s mobile phone to forensic investigation to trace his calls and text messages to determine the extent of his participation in the planning and execution of “Operation Exodus.”
The operation was rolled out to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir Marwan and Filipino bomb-maker, Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed in the police assault that preceded the gun battle in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano.
Magalong said interviewing key personalities would greatly help the investigators verify or corroborate statements made by witnesses and other people on the ground.
“But as you know, we have some limitations and we are just a fact-finding not a judicial body who can compel a person or an evidence through subpoena,” he added.
The PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Genereso Cerbo Jr., said in a radio interview that the BOI chairman has sought Espina for an indefinite extension on when the BOI report will be submitted to him.
The BOI report was supposed to be a product of more than a month of investigation of the board in which it had included interviews of hundreds of individuals that include government, police and military officials and MILF leaders.
Also interviewed by the BOI were local officials of Mamasapano and some residents of Barangay Tukanalipao where the gunbattle took place between the police commandos and combined forces of the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The BOI inspected the encounter site in the barangay in Mamasapano town some two weeks ago.