WITHOUT any doubt during that Senate hearing on Wednesday, the Mamasapano tragedy could have been prevented had the Commander in Chief (President Aquino) exercised leadership and followed the chain of command.
“President Aquino should be held liable for the tragedy after he ‘compartmentalized’ the planning and implementation of Operation Plan Exodus and, eventually, failed to act promptly to help the beleaguered commandos,” Senate Minority Floor Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said.
“In Oplan Exodus, President Aquino appeared to have actively, directly involved himself. He was briefed, consented and informed by Police Director General Alan Purisima and by you on all aspects of Oplan Exodus,” Enrile told Gen. Getulio Napeñas, the Special Action Force (SAF) chief at the time.
“As a matter of fact, he issued orders and gave instructions to PDG Purisima and to you… planning execution of Oplan Exodus,” Enrile told Napeñas, basing his observations on the exchanges of text messages among the officers.
At that time, Purisima was under suspension by the Ombudsman and had no command responsibility and accountability on matters of internal security.
Strangely, two Cabinet members, Manuel A. Roxas II, then in charge of the nation’s internal security, and Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, the man at the forefront of national security, who were with the President at that time along with a number of ranking generals, did not do anything to save the beleaguered SAF troopers.
The transcripts of the text messages have been in the Senate possession since last year, but it was only at the hearing that officials confirmed the contents of the incriminating messages on Enrile’s initiative that led to the reopening of the hearing on the Mamasapano Massacre.
Enrile read the text messages between Mr. Aquino and Purisima, showing the latter informing President Aquino at 5:45 a.m. about the launch of the operation for the capture of Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan; and Basit Usman, another bomb maker.
According to Enrile, President Aquino replied at 7:36 a.m. to Purisima’s message, asking him “why Marwan’s body was left behind, and what happened to the other targets.”
Enrile was surprised to know from the exchange of messages as to why top officials were more concerned to check on the progress of a minor bombing incident in Zamboanga City that day than the unfolding slaughter of the SAF soldiers in Mamasapano.
“It was discomfiting to realize that Aquino was more concerned about the remains of a terrorist than the condition of his troops,” Enrile said.
Answering critics that his move was to get back at the President, Enrile made it clear at the start of the hearing that he was not being vindictive against “powerful people” when he called for the reopening of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano tragedy.
“I’m doing this for the country so that never again shall a similar gruesome butchery happen in this land. I’m doing this for the people so that they will know the national leaders who failed them because of ineptness and lack of leadership,” he said.
Enrile told the media after the hearing that he was able to prove the President’s responsibility and accountability based on the text messages between the Chief Executive and his officials.
“His role was inexcusable,” he said.
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