MANILA - Former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Friday asserted his defense as he faced trial over the botched 2015 Mamasapano anti-terror raid in Maguindanao province that left 44 elite police commandos dead.
This after he posted bail for the graft and usurpation of authority case filed against him at the Sandiganbayan for his role in "Oplan Exodus."
In a rare press briefing, Aquino again pinned former Philippine National Police Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas for errors in coordination during the raid.
He said Napeñas should have sought reinforcement from the military in the firefight between state troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels that ensued in the operation to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Recounting the operation, Aquino reiterated that Napeñas had assured him that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would surround the area of operation at the time of the raid.
But, he said, AFP units had several other operations on Jan. 25, 2015, the day of "Oplan Exodus."
"So 'yung pupuntahan nila, ‘yung sinasabi ni Napeñas na itong friendly forces na nakapuwesto na diyan na nagbabantay dito sa box na ito 'eh wala pala doon," he said, showing a map of the encounter area during his briefing.
"Ngayon bakit hindi niya (Napeñas) alam na nagbago? Hindi ko na kaya sagutin 'yun. Nung prinesenta sa'kin, nandito lahat ‘yan," he added.
Aquino also bared that state forces could have utilized airboats given by the Australian government to extract or reinforce troops had Napeñas coordinated with the military.
"Again, sinabi sa'kin 'to after, walang ever nag-briefing na may ganito. They are used to reinforcing, extrication, inserting our forces especially in that area. Bottomline lang, kung nag-coordinate ka, this is one of the things na puwedeng gamitin na kaagad," he said.
In his briefing, Aquino also revealed other possible approaches to the assault, one of which was a waterborne operation.
The former president said this could have been one of the best options as the house of the target, Marwan, was near a body of water and operatives could have entered covertly through inland waterways.
"I might be mistaken, Jan. 9 ko talaga diniin na bakit 'di tayo waterborne? Ang sagot nila mababaw na raw 'yung tubig. Ayun nga nagtiwala ako, presumption of regularity in the absence of contrary information, siguro tama 'yun," he said.
But Aquino said Mario Montejo, his Science and Technology secretary at the time, told him that water levels in November and December 2014 were the same as that of January 2015, supposedly allowing a waterborne assault.
"Bottomline, nung unang attempt na ginamit ang water levels, puwede tumawid. Nung ginawa na 'tong Exodus, hindi na puwedeng by boat dahil mababaw na. Sagot sa'kin ni Mario, kung ano 'yung water levels nung time na 'yun (time of the planning) tsaka January ito, pareho lang, at actually mas mataas pa dahil kakaulan," he said.
A joint Senate committee report earlier said Aquino was ''ultimately responsible'' for the botched mission to neutralize Marwan and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.
The Ombudsman had indicted Aquino for allowing the then suspended chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Alan Purisima to oversee "Oplan Exodus."
Purisima and Napeñas are facing similar charges at the Sandiganbayan.