'Determine first if video is authentic, and whether fatality is Caucasian'
MANILA - The authenticity of the video that has recently surfaced of an alleged Caucasian soldier as among the fatalities in the January 25 bloodbath in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, has to be established first.
This is the comment of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to reports about the possible involvement of American troops in the actual combat operations involving the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commandos against terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan" and Abdulbasit Usman.
De Lima said once the authenticity of the video is established, the next issue to be ascertained is whether the supposed Caucasian-looking fatality is indeed Caucasian.
"Let's take a look at that -- if that video is authentic, next question is Caucasian ba talaga? Mahirap gumawa ng kung ano-anong mga conclusions, mga speculations na 'yan. 'Yun ba talaga hitsurang puti, hitsurang Caucasian? Pwede naman na Pilipino na mestizo, it can be that," De Lima said.
The justice chief said she will ask the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) - National Prosecution Service (NPS) team investigating the incident in Marwan's hut and the alleged killing of several Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and civilians by PO2 Christopher Lalan, the lone survivor of the SAF 55th Special Action Company (SA)C, if they have information and/or evidence involving the matter.
De Lima, however, clarified, that foreign troops are barred from participating in actual Philippine combat operations.
She said that government is not barred from exploring all angles involving the Mamasapano encounter, but downplayed the possibility of a "different version of the truth" as others have suggested.
"Wala naman siguro masama kung tinitingnan ibang information and leads... but we don't know at this point, that so-called [different] version, totoo ba yan? Baka naman entirely false yan," De Lima said.
She also clarified that while the MILF report varied from the official reports of various government investigative bodies, the MILF report mainly contained "factual narrations" and "factual observations" but was lacking in supporting documents such as sworn affidavits of "first-hand witnesses."
The NBI-NPS team has yet to conclude part two of its investigation. It has already completed part one of its probe, which covered the encounter in Tukanalipao involving the 55th Special Action Company and Moro rebels led by MILF fighters, and recommended the filing of criminal charges against 90 MILF members, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs) members.
Forty-four SAF troopers died in the bloody Mamasapano clash.