PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd should not be the one to appoint members of the proposed independent Truth Commission that will investigate the Mamasapano carnage because it will cast doubts on their impartiality and worse could fuel speculations that the probe will just lead to a whitewash, Vice President Jejomar Binay said on Tuesday.
Instead, Binay proposed that the search committee be led by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), which should choose the panel’s members.
He also suggested that the members of the fact-finding body should include former Chief Justices, leaders of Church and religious groups and eminent personalities who are not identified with the administration or any political organization.
“While the creation of the body is an important first step in finding out what really happened and to determine accountability, we need to remove any doubts about the impartiality of its members. Having the members appointed by the President as proposed by several administration senators will certainly cast doubts on their impartiality,” according to the Vice President.
Binay said he is fully supporting any move that will uncover the truth on the slaughter of 44 officers and men of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
He, however, warned that having the members of the fact-finding body appointed by Aquino would only lead to speculations of a whitewash.
“It could fuel speculations that the investigation will lead to a whitewash even before the probe has started. We need to ensure that the investigating body, from the start, is seen as an independent body,” the Vice President pointed out.
“For this reason, I humbly suggest that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines take the lead in creating a search committee. The search committee should conduct consultations to determine who is best qualified to become members of the independent fact-finding commission,” he said.
Meanwhile, pro-administration Sen. Loren Legarda told the Bulong Pulungan media forum at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City (Metro Manila) that non-coordination between government forces and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) happened because the operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, and Filipino bomb- maker Abdulbasit Usman “was kept a secret confidential operation.”
“I can see that clearly there was no coordination and that is admitted by both sides because it was kept a secret confidential operation. Clearly also I believe in my opinion that there was a failure of intelligence because before you enter into an operation, you need intelligence information to know the area, the surface, the ground, to know the armed groups operating in the area, to know the smallest political unit, the barangay (village), the population, who are the family residing there, are they public enemies?” Legarda said.
She echoed her fellow legislators’ belief that the incident will stall passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because of investigations by various government agencies including the Senate.
“Questions need to be answered and they need to be answered fast before we can realistically advance discussions on the Bangsamoro law,” Legarda said.
“It will be a highly-charged emotional issue because of the very unfortunate death of the police officers,” she added.