MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday shared what took place during a meeting in Zamboanga City with then President Benigno "Noynoy"Aquino on the day of the Mamasapano massacre on January 25, 2015.
Duterte told widows and relatives of the 44 slain elite policemen that Aquino was going "back and forth" with "unexplainable" facial expressions.
Then a mayor, Duterte had been invited by Aquino to a meeting at the Edwin Andrews Airbase, as he was incidentally in the city.
“Wala ng pakornihan, I was there to campaign. But you knew my presence, you requested Roxas to call the police to contact me to go to [Edwin] Andrews Airbase. Then you requested me to be brought to command conference,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang, addressing Aquino.
Duterte said as the command conference was ongoing, it appeared that it became clear to Aquino and then Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas what happened in Mamasapano.
He said, the two went out of the room at least four times to discuss what he presumed was a sensitive matter.
“By the way, nung nandoon tayo sa command conference, you went back and forth sa kwarto na maliit,” he said. “Hindi naman tayo bata eh. Hindi rin ako mag-ano, you know I’ve been trained to watch the demeanor of persons.”
“Every time they went out I could see in your faces the – I cannot describe - ayaw kong insultuhin kayo but I could sense that something really, really bad happened.”
Duterte said, he was particularly pissed by one of the reactions of Aquino in the command conference with regard to the Mamasapano carnage.
“Umupo ka tapos sinabi mo sa general, ‘Kung ikaw ang nandoon ano ba ang dapat gawin?’ You know Mr. President, I will not characterize your behavior, but you have noticed that I just stood and I said, ‘Mr. President, medyo hilong-hilo pa ako sa byahe, can I beg the indulgence to leave?’” Duterte said.
“Bakit? Patay na tapos may tanungin ka na isang general na anong dapat mong gawin kung nandoon ka? I’m really sorry to say, I’d be honest and you can criticize me for this -- this is a democracy and you can also -- I was really pissed off. Sinenyasan ko si Bong [Go] sabi ko umalis tayo dito.”
Aquino was in Zamboanga City the day Special Action Force (SAF) troopers engaged with Moro rebels and other lawless in their bid to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. Aquino was in the Mindanao city supposedly to be briefed about a car bomb explosion that killed two people.
Aquino’s visit, however was kept under wraps, fueling speculations that the Mamasapano clash was also part of his agenda for the visit.
The Mamasapano massacre dealt a serious blow to the credibility and popularity of Aquino, as the operation which led to the deaths of 44 elite policemen was carried out allegedly under the orders of a suspended police chief.
The suspended police chief was Alan Purisima, who is known for his closeness to Aquino.
DUTERTE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS
In his speech, Duterte questioned why SAF troopers were sent to do the job that the military should normally take.
“Bakit pinadala ang SAF when SAF is geared, organized into the service to meet the challenges of urban terrorism. Urban is urban. Dito lang iyan sa siyudad. But maybe on special occasions they are sent to augment the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Duterte said.
“Bakit niyo tinago iyan? And why the police? Why not the army with the artillery.”
Getulio Napeñas, the SAF head at the time of the carnage, had said in congressional hearings that part of the reason the military was kept out of the loop was that previous military-coordinated attempts to get Marwan failed due to leaked information.
Napeñas had blamed the military for failing to send reinforcements to the beleaguered SAF troopers, even as he defends the so-called ''time on target'' plan where the military was only informed of the operation to neutralize Marwan right before the actual operation on January 25, 2015.
The AFP, for its part, said the SAF's failure to coordinate with them caused the bloodbath, where the police commandos were outnumbered by Moro rebels and other lawless elements in the corn field of Mamasapano.
Duterte also pointed to reports that the government, through the advice of then peace adviser Teresita Deles, decided not to send military reinforcement for the SAF troopers in Mamasapano to preserve a ceasefire with the MILF.
“Why did you enter into an operation which was really placing in jeopardy the lives (of the troops) because at the end of the day you would have decided not to send any?” Duterte said.
“Kayo nagputukan, pinigilan niyo because alam niyo and alam ni Deles you would have violated (the ceasefire).”
Deles denied Duterte's allegations and instructed the president to read congressional reports instead of dealing with "alternative facts."
"That allegation is a lie. It is not true. The records of the house and senate hearings bear me out. It would do well for the president to read the reports and refrain from engaging in alternative facts," Deles said.