The final report on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident may suffer the same fate of the 82-page report on the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage crisis in Luneta, where eight Hong Kong tourists were killed during the bungled rescue operation, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian warned.
Gatchalian was referring to the final report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee or IIRC, which was jointly conducted by the Department of Justice and representatives of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the 10-hour hostage-taking incident pulled off by dismissed Manila policeman Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.
The solon suspects that the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry or PNP-BOI has already finished its report and an advance copy could have been sent to Malacañang so that its recommendations can be reviewed for possible deletions or rewriting, like what happened to the 82-page IIRC report, which underwent heavy editing in the hands of Palace officials.
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“There are indications that the PNP-BOI report on the Mamasapano incident may end up like the watered-down IIRC report, in which three top government officials, who were originally recommended to be charged criminally, were cleared by Malacañang,” Gatchalian, who was privy to the details of the IIRC investigation, said.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker earlier expressed disappointment over the PNP-BOI’s failure to meet the deadline for its Mamasapano report thrice already.
“The first deadline was on February 26, which was extended to March 6, and again extended to March 9. We don’t know when the next deadline will be; but the more the BOI delays its report, the more it will fuel speculations that a cover-up is in-the-making,” the solon said.
The PNP formed the BOI chaired by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Director Benjamin Magalong immediately after the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operation, which led to the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos,18 Moro fighters, and five civilians who were caught in the crossfire.
Gatchalian said the original IIRC report on the Luneta hostage crisis found three top officials liable for administrative and criminal culpability for mishandling the hostage crisis. These are Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, then PNP Director-General Jesus Verzosa, and the Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
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Puno has been friends with the President even before the latter entered politics as a congressman of Tarlac.
Verzosa became close with President Aquino when he supported his presidential bid in 2010 and got the ire of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Lim has been a friend of the Aquinos and has been loyal to President Cory during the series of failed coup attempts against her administration.
A review made by the Office of Presidential Legal Counsel, obviously with clearance from the chief executive, quickly cleared Usec Puno and Gen. Verzosa of wrongdoing while the President only approved the filing of administrative charges for “misconduct and simple neglect,” against Mayor Lim.
Then DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo recommended the administrative suspension of Mayor Lim for “misconduct and simple neglect” as head of the Crisis Management Committee or CMC but the recommendation was never implemented by Malacañang.
The hostage-taking incident angered Chinese authorities and a separate probe by Hong Kong government concluded that the hostages were “unlawfully killed” and blamed the incompetence of Philippine authorities as a direct cause of the deaths. Administrative charges had been filed against five police officers in connection with the bungled rescue operation.
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In the case of the Mamasapano incident, no less than the close friend of President Aquino, resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima, is being blamed for the botched operation of Special Action Force or SAF which he was calling the shots despite his suspension by the Ombudsman.
“The basic question here is: Will the PNP-BOI spare no one in the quest for justice for the 44 SAF troopers who were killed in Mamasapano? Will the BOI be brave enough to recommend the filing of charges against those behind the botched operation, including officials in Malacanang?” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian earlier filed House Bill No. 5404 calling for the creation of a “Mamasapano Truth Commission” that will investigate the preparation and implementation of the SAF operation.
Apart from it, the “Mamasapano Truth Commission” will also look into the real sequence of events on the ground during the incident itself, and any other occurrences material to the identification of the accountabilities and liabilities of all parties either directly or indirectly involved in the Jan. 25 incident. (R. Burgos)