THE MANILA BULLETIN ONLINE: Mamasapano investigation Truth Commission sought; Poe opens Senate probe today
A senior administration congressman has filed a bill creating a TruthCommission empowered to subpoena the President and has asked PresidentAquino to certify the measure urgent. Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian (NPC,Valenzuela City) also wants the body that would investigate the Mamasapanoincident to finish its job within one year.Gatchalian filed House Bill 5404 which will create the Mamasapano TruthCommission that will be patterned after the Davide Commission which wasassigned to investigate the series of coup d’etat against the government ofPresident Corazon Aquino in the 1980s.The five-man Mamasapano Truth Commission will be an independent fact-finding panel that will conduct an investigation into the brutal killing of 44police commandos of the Special Action Force of the Philippine NationalPolice (PNP) as well as the death of 17 Muslims in an armed encounter inMamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
SENATE PROBE ON TODAY
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, head of the SenateCommittee on Public Order, will hold its initial hearing today, Feb. 9.Director General Alan Purisima, resigned PNP chief, has confirmed hisattendance in the hearing. Also appearing at the Senate probe are Interiorand Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, acting PNP chiefLeonardo Espina, and relieved PNP-SAF chief Supt. Pascual Napeñas.Two survivors of the deadly clash – Supt. Raymond Train and and PO2Christopher Lalan are also set to appear at the probe, along with ArmedForces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Pio Catapang, Jr. and Lt.General Rustico Guerrero of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, SecretaryTeresita Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP),Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Justice Secretary Leila de Lima; Prof.Miriam Coronel Ferrer who headed the Government Peace Negotiating Panelfor talks with the MILF; and Gov. Mujiv Hataman, chair of the AutonomousRegion in Muslim Mindanao (ARMMM).
Unlike similar bills filed by Malacanang-allied congressmen, Gatchalian’sproposal calls for the grant to the Truth Commission of a special power to callPresident Aquino, whose alleged role in the police operations in Mamasapanohas become the subject of much speculation.Gatchalian said persistent reports that Aquino was the one who gave the“go-signal” for the Mamasapano raid should be explained by the chiefexecutive himself.
The Valenzuela lawmaker urged Aquino to certify the measure an urgentadministration bill. ”Being a public servant, it is of utmost importance for thePresident to have the truth commission institutionalized at the shortestpossible time given the clamor for truth by his bosses. As many people say:Justice delayed is justice denied,” Gatchalian said.“The President should also attend the proceedings of such commission if histestimony is needed and truthfully answer the questions of the panel. Heshould lead by example,” he added.“The Mamasapano Commission will be responsible for investigating thepreparation and implementation of the SAF operation, the real sequence ofevents on the ground during the incident itself, and any other occurrencesmaterial to the identification of the accountabilities and liabilities of allparties either directly or indirectly involved in the incident. In pursuit of thisresponsibility, the Commission shall be vested with broad investigatorypowers,” Gatchalian said in his explanatory note.In case there is sufficient basis to believe a party is liable for human rightsviolations, war crimes, or crimes against humanity, the Commission is alsotasked to endorse to the Office of the Solicitor General the filing ofcomplaints in competent international courts such as the InternationalCriminal Court in The Hague.
Under the bill the head of the commission should be a retired Supreme Courtjustice while the other four members should be come from the academe,clergy, or any respectable and duly licensed profession.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said yesterday that Malacanang and the UnitedStates embassy should come clean and address the rumors that the US isinvolved in the police operation launched by the PNP SAF in Mamasapano,Maguindanao.The Senate Committee on Public Order should also look into the reportedpresence of American troops during the clash between the SAF personneland the MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), he said.“Definitely the role — or the non-participation — of America in this issueshould be settled once and for all. That should be part of our goal for thesearch for truth,” Escudero said.What is puzzling, Escudero said, is why US helicopters were used to airlift thewounded Filipino commandos.
There have been reports a US drone was circling around the area while theclash was going on. An American soldier was also reportedly killed during theencounter.Lawmakers should ascertain whether the Philippine-United States VisitingForces Agreement (VFA) was violated, Escudero said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that if indeed the US assisted the Philippines inthe operation, it should be welcomed.“US support is essential in our fight against terrorism. So, on the assumptionthat the US assisted in the operation to get Marwan by providing geospatialintel or medical evacuations, we should welcome it,” Trillanes said.Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged the US government toconsider granting the $5-million bounty for the head of Malaysian bombexpert Zulkifli bin Hir to the families of the slain 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and the other wounded commandos.“If indeed it is confirmed that Marwan was killed, I am of the belief that thefamily of those who were part of the operations, and those other SAFmembers who were wounded benefit from the reward,” Cayetano said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said some Palace officialsare purportedly laying the ground for a grand cover-up to hide what reallytranspired in the Mamasapano clash.To this day, Marcos said, the government has not yet presented theoperational plan which contains an intelligence packet and an approval orderfor “Oplan Wolverine.” According to Marcos, this packet will show exactly who was in command andwho signed the papers which gave the SAF troopers the signal to proceedwith their mission to arrest international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias“Marwan” and Abdul Basit Usman.In an interview over Radio DZMM, Marcos said the unwillingness on the partof authorities to present the document is worsening speculations andallowing the unresolved issue to fester,
Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Local Government, said he isready to resume the Senate hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) ifthe government gives the Senate a truthful and believable report on theMamasapano incident. He suspended the hearings on the BBL following theMamasapano incident.
1-BAP party list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, who served as justice secretary duringthe Ramos administration, said yesterday that the Department of Justice’sfive-man special investigation panel should be given “more than twomonths” to finish its probe into the January 25 bloody clash in Mamasapano.“It will take the DOJ more than two months to get to the bottom of the tragicincident and, depending on how Director General Purisima will cooperate indiscovering the truth, we may or may not find out what really happened,” hesaid.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the DOJ special panel to submitits final report of findings and recommendations “not later than 60 days.”Magadalo party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo and Deputy MajorityLeader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle against Corruption (CIBAC) party list,however, disagreed with Bello, sayin g the two-month deadline for the DOJ tofinish its SAF probe is “reasonable.”
Congressman Acedillo said a Truth Commission would be the perfect entity todeliver “punitive” and “corrective” action on both the MILF and PNP as far asthe January 25 inncident is concerned.Rep. Gary Alejano, who like Acedillo is a former Magdalo solider-turned-lawmaker, said, “The problem of an independent investigation body is theauthority. By whose authority would it act?”House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. underscored this line ofthought last week when he stressed that Congress should be the foremostbody to investigate the Mamasapano issue “and not retired magistrates.”
JOINT PROBE SOUGHT
LPGMA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty on Sunday urged President Aquino III toinitiate another inquiry into the January 25 incident, this time involving theDepartment of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Departmentof Justice (DOJ) as a team.Ty, a deputy minority leader, said a “joint comprehensive investigation”between the two agencies would be akin to the one launched in theaftermath of the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking fiasco.Currently, the DILG — through a PNP Board of Inquiry — and the DOJ — viathe National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National ProsecutionService (NPS)– m are conducting two separate probes.. Two separate probesare a waste of time and resources, considering that a unified inquiry is viablethrough a simple presidential directive,” he said.
POLICE HUNTING USMAN
Police are now even more determined to get suspected bomb expert BasitUsman who was able to escape the bloody police operation last month, ChiefSupt. Generoso Cerbo, Jr., spokesman of the PNP, said yesterday.In his address to the nation on Friday, President Aquino vowed to get Usmanand asked the MILF to either help the government in getting him or step outof the way.Aside from Usman, police are also on the lookout for all the suspectedbombers who trained under Marwan and Usman.All police forces in Mindanao are now on highest security alert status to avertany retaliatory attack from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF)which is reportedly coddling Usman, Cerbo said.
The Philippine government is reluctant to ask the US to give the multimillion-dollar reward offered for information on a terror suspect to the families of theFallen 44.Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. saidthe government has no authority to intervene with how the US will distributeits reward for the downfall of Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.Earlier, some groups proposed that the bounty on Marwan should beextended to the families of the policemen killed in the line of duty. BayanMuna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the reward money may help compensate forthe loss of the policemen’s families.
US embassy officials however reportedly made clear that only civilianinformants are eligible for any bounty offered by the US government. Noofficer or employee of foreign governments may receive the rewards ofjustice, they said. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling, Ellson A.Quismorio, Aaron B. Recuenco, and Charissa M. Luci)