Lawmakers are hopeful that they will gain more information from police and military officials when the House of Representatives hold a closed-door investigation on the Mamasapano tragedy on Tuesday.
Specifically, lawmakers want to know the extent of the involvement of the United States in the police operation that cost the lives of 44 police commandos.
House Deputy Speaker Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela and Rep. Samuel Pagdilao of ACT-CIS party-list on Sunday gave assurances that the executive session will be productive.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite told The Manila Times that the hearing is “very important since PNP and AFP officials would be able to disclose the answers to the questions for which no response was given to them during the public hearings including the US participation.”
PNP is the Philippine National Police while AFP is the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Rep. Silvestre Bello of 1-BAP Partylist agreed, saying the result will be “relevant to the outcome of the investigation.”
“Hopefully, we will elicit information on whose idea was Oplan Exodus. Who spent for the operations, where did the money spent for the operations come from and how much. The presence of of drones/Orion and who ordered it. Who ordered the stand down of AFP forces which resulted to the brutal killing of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers,” Bello said.
The executive session will afford the resource persons invited by the House Committee on Public Order and Safety and the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity the opportunity to freely discuss sensitive matters, Aggabao said.
“The executive session was scheduled upon requests of our police and military guests. They thought some of the questions asked by House members are very sensitive which cannot be freely discussed in public,” she explained.
“(It might be discussed) American participation if any,” Aggabao added.
On Wednesday last week, a verbal tussle ensued between Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade and Supt. Michael John Mangahis as well as former SAF deputy commander Chief Supt. Noli Taliño over the alleged delayed artillery support for the beleaguered SAF troops.
The military has said that they could not order cannon fire as they did not have enough information where the 55th Special Action Company (SAC) was located.
“We still have an executive session to discuss national security sensitive matters which will help us determine some important truths about the failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to deliver the much needed fire support which could have saved the SAF 44 if only this was delivered early on during the crucial hours of the day,” Pagdilao, former head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said in a statement.
Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela said the executive session is important because she will be able to get answers to her questions related to the alleged involvement of the US in the Mamasapano operation.
“The resource persons were very cagey . . . We can extract this info. Unfortunately it may not be shared with the public and the media,” Ilagan said.
While matters discussed in the executive session cannot be divulged publicly, Pagdilao said these will have a bearing in the evaluation and result of the House inquiry.
He added that the report should be finished by the time the ad hoc panel tasked to review the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will resume its hearings.
Over 60 people were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao including 44 members of the SAF who were in an operation to capture Marwan and his protégé Abdulbasit Usman. Members of the MILF and civilians were also among the casualties.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed that the police commandos were able to kill Marwan.