In his obsession to obtain the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a political trophy President Aquino deliberately ignored the pleas from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) for additional reinforcement to rescue trapped operatives from their dire position.
This was bared to The Tribune by a source within the PNP saying not only was Aquino informed beforehand of the SAF operation against Malay-sian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Mar-wan,” believed to be a key leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islam-iyah, and his alleged Filipino henchman, Abdul Basit Usman, but that he was actually on top of the operation itself.
“The President was actually monitoring the operation. Everything was being reported to him in real time,” said the source.
According to the source, Aquino was in Zamboanga that time, waiting in the wings for the outcome of the operation, ready to jump anytime to Maguindanao should the two suspected terrorists be captured.
“But when the operation went out of control as the MILF and the BIFF Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) joined forces in attacking the SAF, the President refused to send any reinforcement even as the SAF were already crying for help from heir beleaguered position,” the source said.
Aquino, the source said, cannot deny the fact that he was aware all the time of the SAF operation.
“SAF Commander (Police Director Getulio) Napeñas gave it away. He said that a little less than two hours before the initial gunfighting, the joint monitoring team of the MILF and the government called for a ceasefire. As no one was supposed to have been informed of the operation except (suspended) PNP Chief Alan Purisima, Acting Chief Leonardo Espina, (Executve Secretary Paquito) Ochoa and the President, who could make this possible? No one but the President. He could have called (Presidential Adviser on Peace Process) Teresita Deles to inform the monitoring team of both sides and call for a ceasefire but unfortunately, it didn’t work,” said the source.
In an interview with another national daily, Napeñas averred the joint monitoring team from the MILF and the government called for a ceasefire at a little past 6 am, but the “MILF did not stop shooting.”
“General Napeñas said the ceasefire was called for by the monitoring teams of both sides at a little past 6 am, less than two hours after the first shot was fired around 4:20 am. But the gun battle lasted 11 hours until 3:00 pm, and the nearest Army station is only about one kilometer away from where the gun battle was happening, but no reinforcement was sent,” said the source.
“If the President could make a call so early in the morning to Deles so she could in turn call on the monitoring teams to call for a ceasefire, why can’t he make a call to ask the Armed Forces to send reinforcement for the beleaguered SAF personnel?” the source asked.
“Because he was advised by Deles not to do so. They were so obsessed with the peace agreement, they want to save the Bangsamoro Basic Law as they believe it was the last piece for Aquino to earn the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the source.
“Never mind if 50 dedicated cops were killed,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon lashed at Aquino for skipping the arrival honors of slain SAF officers in Villamor Airbase yesterday, attending the inauguration of a manufacturing plant in Laguna instead.
“Aquino’s absence in the arrival honor ceremony for the fallen SAF men speaks volumes of the president’s lack of basic respect for his servicemen,” said Ridon.
“His choice to instead head to the opening of a car factory in Sta. Rosa shows how little he cares for his uniformed personnel, who died in an encounter that he himself green-lighted,” the solon said.
Aquino’s cold, unfeeling heart,” Ridon said, “cannot even sympathize briefly to the families of the fallen SAF officers.”
“It is truly despicable, especially for the commander-in-chief,” he lamented.
The president’s absence in yesterday’s ceremony, according to the solon, only heightens the people’s disgust in Aquino, describing him as a “spineless leader who let his own men go to battle for the sake of his own vanity, only to disown the whole plan and deny accountability in the end.”
“Aquino’s presidency is yet another great tragedy for our nation, one that heightens our grief and transforms it into seething rage,” said Ridon.
Aquino was a no show during the arrival honors in Villamor Airbase for the slain SAF members as the Palace defended that he already expressed grief over the 49 slain policemen.
Presidential communications secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a Palace briefing denied that the President chose not to attend the arrival honors in place of the inauguration of an automotive manufacturing plant of Mitsubishi Motors in Laguna.
The Palace official said that it is really part of the President’s schedule, adding that Aquino would still be present for the necrological services of the slain troops in Camp Bagong Diwa today.
“There is no such happening that [he] chose that. It’s really not part of his schedule. The scheduled events is that there will be a National Day of Mourning, and that President Aquino tomorrow in Camp Bagong Diwa would attend the necrological or memorial service in memory of our country’s heroes that died as part of the PNP-SAF,” Coloma said.
Coloma downplayed the outrage from common citizens expressed through social media due to Aquino’s speech on the matter earlier this week, saying that the chief executive has expressed “sincerely” his grief over the death of the PNP-SAF troops.
“The President has expressed his condolences and sadness of our country, and because of that we will commemorate through a National Day of Mourning,” he said.
“In speaking and in feeling and in action the President demonstrated his being one with all the families and acknowledging the members of the PNP-SAF. If there are other views, we respect it,” Coloma added.
The Palace official, when asked on how the government will appease the reaction of citizens, said that the “majority view” on the matter is not about Aquino “washing his hands.”
“In our monitoring, that is not the majority view. With that, we acknowledge all views, although different, we still continue to call and encourage all citizens to put first the welfare of the whole country,” Coloma said.
Meanwhile, the Palace executive also downplayed calls of the PNP Alumni Association for their members to take a mass leave.
“All the important details on the matter had been said by the President and we wish that they consider this in their decision. I do not know when they came up with the decision, if this is new or right after the President Aquino delivered his speech. On that note we respect their view,” he said.
Coloma said that the Palace has faith that policemen would not follow the call of the PNP Alumni association.
“We trust them to use reason, right thinking and understanding in the importance of their duty to serve the country,” he said.
On another note, Coloma expressed that the focus of the government is winning over and pushing for the fight against terrorism and the peace talks. He said that further details on what the Palace has been calling as a misencounter should be tackled after the findings of the Board of Inquiry.
“First we need to know first the truth behind the incident which will be established by the Board of Inquiry. Second, based on the findings. The government will take appropriate steps to straighten out what needs to be done, hold liable those responsible and change the system because of the importance of pushing for war or or campaign against terrorism,” Coloma said.
The Aquino administration has been under fire after Aquino delivered his speech on the Mamasapano clash earlier this week. Critics have assailed that Aquino has raised more questions than answers in his address.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza also called on the House leadership to defer all deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“I call on Speaker Belmonte, Majority Floor Leader Boyet Gonzales and BBL Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Congressman Rufus Rodriguez to suspend all deliberations on the BBL while the killing of 44 policemen is being investigated, while the truth is being determined and justice is not rendered,” Atienza said.
Atienza, in a manifestation on the floor Wednesday night, cited three reasons for calling for the suspension of deliberations, namely: (a) In deference to those who lost their lives; holding these hearings on the BBL will only elicit emotional reactions and they will not get any genuine sentiments from the participants; (b) What is the need to rush it when Congress has all the time to discuss this dispassionately?; and (c) Why rush it when there are questions on the constitutionality of several provisions of the proposed law?
It has been reported that Rodriguez, Ad Hoc Committee chairman for BBL is trying to fast-track the approval of the proposed measure as it would serve his ticket to his appointment as chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“We should first get to the truth and give justice to those who lost their lives before we can even resume discussions. There can never be peace without justice,” Atienza said.
Atienza manifested his call on the floor but was immediately turned down by Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong. He likewise pointed out that it is not just the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker or the Chairman of the committee who will decide on the matter but it is the whole membership of Congress who are the decision makers.
Vice President Jejomar Binay led government officials in giving honors to the 42 fallen members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF), whose corpses arrived in Villamor Air Base (VAB) aboard military planes.
Aquino, who delivered a televised speech Wednesday night washing his hands in the debacle, was noticeably absent during the emotions-filled event.
Aquino was expected to lead the arrival honors for the fallen SAF only to skip the arrival honors to attend an inauguration of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The absence of Aquino sparked more disappointment from members of uniformed services, particularly from the ranks of the PNP.
“What kind of commander in chief is that? His presence here was very important not only for the families of the slain SAF members but more importantly to us, to somewhat lift our morale,” a police officer said, requesting anonymity.
“Our comrades die in the field following orders, to serve and protect our people and community. His (Aquino’s) absence here only showed his true character, a weak leader,” he added.
Another officer based in Camp Crame also scored the absence of Aquino in the arrival honors.
“He should have somewhat redeem his weakness if he showed up and joined the families who lost their loved ones in an operation he obviously knew of. Nobody in the PNP believes that the President was not aware of the SAF operation,” the second source told The Tribune.
Even some of the loved ones of the fallen SAF expressed dismay over the Aquino government. They are feeling abandoned.
Aside from Binay, other government officials present were Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Senators Nancy Binay, Bongbong Marcos and Grace Poe, and former First Lady Rep. Imelda Marcos.
Also present was former President Ramos, a retired general himself, and presidential uncle former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and wife Tingting.
Philippine National Police (PNP) officer in charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. and other senior police and military officers also attended the solemn honors. Joshua L. Labonera, Mario J. Mallari, Gerry Baldo