MANILA (Mabuhay) – In what he said would be the last time he speaks on the issue, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday again accepted responsibility for the disastrous January 25 Mamasapano incident and “humbly” asked for “understanding,” but offered no apology.
“I say again, as President I carry the responsibility,” Aquino said in Filipino at the graduation rites of the Philippine National Police Academy’s “Lakandula” Class of 2015.
“For every Filipino hurt and disappointed” by the events in Mamasapano, “I humbly ask for your understanding,” he added.
Aquino maintained that all the decisions he made on the day 44 Special Action Force commandos died during the mission in Maguindanao to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” were borne of wrong information passed on to him by people he thought he could trust.
Although he did not name anyone, Aquino had earlier accused sacked SAF commander Getulio Napenas and resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima of having misled him about the effectivity of Oplan Exodus and of disregarding his orders to coordinate the mission with other police units and the Armed Forces.
At the same time, Aquino again took a swipe at the report of the PNP’s board of inquiry into Mamasapano, which faulted him, Purisima and Napenas of breaking the chain of command by keeping acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II out of the loop in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus.
Without specifically mentioning the BOI, Aquino complained that the report “included speculations instead of facts,” a claim earlier made by Malacañang spokesmen, “instead of asking me.”
Aquino said unless he is asked for more clarification, the PNPA speech was “the last occasion I’ll speak on this issue.”
Earlier, members of the House of Representatives had said they planned to invite Aquino when the chamber resumes its inquiry into Mamasapano. However, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has shot down the idea.
Aquino stressed that, “in the eyes of God, what I say is true,” but acknowledged that “there are those whose minds are closed and will not believe me whatever I say.”
Sounding defiant at one point, Aquino asked: “Now, can anyone say truthfully that he could have done better to respond to that situation, given the incomplete information I got?”
Nevertheless, he admitted, “no matter my anger at the disobedience (of Napenas and Purisima), no matter my regret for trusting them, I cannot erase the truth: the SAF 44 are dead.”
“I will bring this truth to my grave,” he added.
At the same time, he vowed that “there will be accountability” for the Mamasapano incident.
Aquino reiterated that he would never send members of the uniformed service on a “suicide mission” but said he was “persuaded” that the mission to get Marwan was “well-planned.”
He added that had he immediately been informed that the SAF was in trouble, “don’t you think I would have acted to help our policemen?”
However, he stressed, there was “no urgency” to the first messages he received, which informed him the mission was “tapos na o patapos na (we accomplished or close to being finished).”
As it was, he said, it was already night when he was informed of the situation of the 84th SAF, or Seaborne, the unit said to have killed Marwan, which had engaged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as it withdrew.
When he was informed that efforts to extricate the Seaborne might have to wait until morning, Aquino said he ordered a plan to link up with the besieged commandos and, “at the minimum,” supply them with medicine for their casualties and ammunition. (MNS)