Senate reopens Mamasapano inquiry

By Butch Fernandez

SENATORS are set to reopen on Wednesday the Mamasapano Massacre inquiry to hear new evidence, even as Senate President Franklin M. Drilon warned that illegally recorded conversations cannot be used as evidence in the Senate hearing.

Drilon said he is leaving it up to the members of the Committee on Public Order whether to play the recording that retired Chief Supt. Diosdado Valeroso claimed showed a supposed plot to whitewash the Mamasapano case.

Drilon reminded Valeroso of Republic Act 4200, which imposes jail term for illegal wiretaps.

This developed, even as Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate inquiry, acknowledged President Aquino’s earlier admission he was “ultimately responsible” for the National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos slaughtered by Moro rebels last year, but noted there are no calls to impeach Mr. Aquino for this.

Poe noted that testimonies at earlier hearings indicated that President Aquino failed to stop usurpation of authority by then-suspended National Police chief Alan Purisima.

She told reporters that Senate investigators will backtrack and check timelines during the one-hour firefight between the Moro rebels and SAF commandos exiting from the kill zone after bagging their target, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

Poe said investigators are interested to find exactly from whom and at what time President Aquino first learned what happened on the ground.

The Committee on Public Order, chaired by Poe, is expected to hear testimonies from several witnesses listed to be invited by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to shed light on the bloody police operation in Mamasapano on January 25, 2015.

“We will give Senator Enrile all the time he needs [to question the witnesses he asked to be invited at the resumption of the inquiry], Poe said, adding Senate probers also need to cross check and verify testimonies given at earlier hearings “to check cover-up attempts and get justice for the slain SAF commandos.”

She, however, clarified that there is a process the committee must follow if there is new evidence pointing to whoever should be answerable.

Poe pointed out that dismissed SAF commander Getulio Napeñas can be held liable for the alleged miscoordination with relevant units that resulted in a very high-casualty count on the side of the government, despite the success of the mission to get Marwan.

“But he [Napeñas] is not the only one,” Poe added, but declined to name who else she meant. In the same interview, Poe said she is not heeding calls to inhibit from the ongoing probe, having declared her candidacy in the 2016 presidential elections.

Among those summoned to appear at Wednesday’s resumption of the Mamasapano inquiry were 24 Aquino administration officials, including Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.; Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr.; Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; then-Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II; National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia Jr.;  Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hernando Delfin Carmelo A. Iriberri; Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Sixth Infantry “Kampilan” Division commander; Lt. Gen. Rustico O. Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command chief; former Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Catapang; Purisima; former National Police officer in charge Leonardo Espina; National Police chief Director General Ricardo Marquez; Intelligence Group chief Supt. Fernando Mendez; Director Benjamin Magalong; Napeñas;  Chief Supt. Noli Talino; Chief Supt. Edgar Orduna Basbas, Western Mindanao Police commander; Senior Supt. Hendrix Mangaldan, 4th SAF Battalion commander; Senior/Supt. Richard de la Rosa; Supt. Michael John Mangahis; Supt. Abraham Abayari, Supt. Raymund Train, Chief Insp. Recaredo Marasigan, and Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan.


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