INTERIOR Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd on Tuesday said it is time for the country to move forward but not without giving justice to those who perished in a police raid and by instituting reforms to prevent another Mamasapano incident from happening again.
His call formed part of his opening statements at the resumption of congressional hearings on the January 25 commando mission that resulted in the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan as well as the death of over 60 people including 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
“Together with the bereaved families of the SAF 44, the members of the congressional committees conducting this investigation and the Filipino people, I’m asking for justice,” Roxas said in Filipino.
The House committees on public order and safety and on peace, reconciliation and unity convened the first of the two days of scheduled hearings. The joint panel suspended its inquiry for over two months to await release of findings of separate probes conducted by the Senate, the PNP-Board of Inquiry and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) special investigation committee.
MILF officials skipped the reopening of the House hearings.
Lawmakers were “displeased” with the absence of Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator and vice chairman of the MILF, who was summoned to the House hearings, but opted to skip the proceedings and instead attended a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Iqbal was present during hearings conducted by the Senate.
“Nobody from the MILF is here present, so how can we really conduct a probe to ferret out the truth?” Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat asked.
“The presence of MILF is required in these hearings because they are the other party, the other side. They respected the Senate in all the hearings, Iqbal was present. But here this is the second hearing and he refuses to be here. The committee should make a stronger stand,” Lobregat said.
In a statement issued later in the afternoon, Iqbal said he will attend the second day of the House hearings set for Wednesday.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Roxas defended President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who was held “responsible” for the botched police raid by the PNP-BOI and the Senate panel and blamed now-sacked SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas Jr., for reading the President wrong.
He said Napeñas misinterpreted the President’s silence when he suggested the time on target concept during a briefing in Malacanang.
Napeñas said he thought Aquino agreed with his suggestion to only inform the military of the raid once the SAF troops were already “time on target.”
Former PNP chief Alan Purisima insisted before the joint House panel that he was not involved in planning and implementing Oplan Exodus.
Purisima, who was serving a suspension order in connection with a graft case with the Sandiganbayan, resigned as PNP chief after it was revealed that he had a hand in the operation. He was in his house in Nueva Ecija on the day the raid was conducted.
“I was not in command. I did not meddle in how they operated. I only relayed information to the President,” he said in Filipino.
Napeñas earlier said Purisima was present in Malacanang when the police mission was discussed with the President.