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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

‘Purisima can’t cite executive privilege’


Resigned Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima File photo
MANILA, Philippines - Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima cannot invoke executive privilege to ward off questions on President Aquino’s actions in the Mamasapano clash, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said yesterday.
He said only the President could invoke executive privilege on his actions after learning about the request for reinforcements of the besieged Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano last month.
During last Thursday’s hearing on the Mamasapano incident, Purisima admitted accountability for the operation gone awry.
Angara said the circumstances and testimonies of resource persons in the congressional inquiry on the incident point to Purisima as the person on top of the operation from the planning stage up to implementation.
He said sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas could not have acted on his own.
“I don’t think Napeñas can initiate a move that will affect the deployment of about 400 police personnel without the knowledge of his superiors. Even if he is not saying it, we can read between the lines,” Angara said.
“I don’t need to ask Purisima anymore but I already know now that he was calling the shots,” he added.
The Senate joint panel investigating the Mamasapano incident will proceed with another executive session today with Napeñas and PNP Intelligence Group director Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez.
Senators will likely inquire about the meeting between Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas when they proceeded to the President’s official residence at Bahay Pangarap to give a mission update last Jan. 9.
Mendez, who was also present at the meeting, was identified by Purisima as the one who gave him the intelligence packet on Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Abdul Basit Usman.
“I think it’s safe to assume that if you are in Malacañang, that’s it,” Angara said.
He did not discount the possibility that Aquino may have given Purisima clearance to proceed with the operation even though the national police chief was suspended.
Purisima has yet to submit a statement to the PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) investigating the Mamasapano firefight, according to sources.
Purisima had promised to furnish the BOI with his personal account on what happened.
During the latest Senate hearing, Purisima denied controlling the SAF operation, saying he merely gave Napeñas advice.
Angara said the hearings also established the apparent distrust among the military and police units, which may have prompted the SAF commander to keep his counterparts out of the loop about Operation Plan: Exodus.
“We should have had better coordination,” he said, looking at the aftermath of the operations. “We don’t want our young police officers to suffer the same (fate) in the future.”

Exacting accountability

Purisima has to be accountable for his actions, Angara said, noting that the former police chief was Napeñas’ superior.
Angara was not convinced by Purisima’s claim that he was merely giving Napeñas advice on how to pursue the plan.
It would be up for the ombudsman to file necessary actions against Purisima, he added.
For her part, Sen. Nancy Binay said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II should be held administratively liable for incompetence after they failed to inform the President of the deteriorating situation in Mamasapano.
Binay slammed what what she described as their feigned innocence when they were asked during the Senate hearing on whether they informed the President of the situation.
“If there is truth to their claim that they did not discuss the matter with the President, to me it is a sign of incompetence and that they seemed to have not done their duties as part of the security cluster of the Cabinet,” Binay said.
Binay said she could not believe the alibis of the two who claimed they regarded the information they received “as an ordinary encounter.”
Since the government has been upbeat on ensuring the success of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Binay said she is not convinced that the matter did not spike the interest of the President and his security officials upon learning of the firefight as early as 5:30 a.m. from top military officials based in Maguindanao.
“This has a security implication because it has an impact on the peace process. And they knew from the very beginning that those involved in the encounter were members of the SAF and the MILF,” she said.
Angara agreed with the senators’ observation that Gazmin and Roxas, as well as the other top security officials, had acted dumbfounded when asked who among them had informed the President about the crisis in Mamasapano.
“But on the aspect of informing the President, it seemed they all forgot who and how the President was informed about the incident,” Angara said.
Angara and Binay also downplayed calls asking President Aquino to own up accountability in the Mamasapano incident because he already did so during his national address more than a week ago.
“The President said that he is responsible… It’s no longer an issue because the President already said, ‘I am responsible for sending these men.’ I don’t think he ever denied that,” Angara said.
Binay echoed the statement of her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who stands to benefit as Aquino’s constitutionally mandated successor in case ouster moves would succeed.
“He is not supporting calls for resignation,” Binay said, referring to the Vice President. “Out of delicadeza, I don’t like to push for calls for the President to resign.”
Binay said she also prays that Aquino will be able to overcome the latest challenge, with a fervent hope that it will not be at the expense of the truth about Mamasapano.
“I am also praying for the President because he is faced with a big challenge right now. At the end of the day, we are all praying that the truth will come out,” Binay said.

Not a lame duck

Amid calls for Aquino’s resignation, Angara said the Senate should be allowed to finish its investigation. He said there is no indication that Napeñas reported directly to the President.
“I don’t think Napeñas is directly in touch with the President. I could be wrong,” Angara said.
Angara disagreed with criticisms that the President has become a lame duck because of recent developments.
“Lame duck, no. I don’t think we have a lame-duck President. He can still call out the Armed Forces and if he wants, to launch an attack, in Zamboanga or Basilan. That is an overused phrase and I don’t believe in that,” he said. –With Helen Flores, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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