MANILA - Former President Benigno Aquino III revealed Thursday that junior officers of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who were part of the bloody raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao three years ago were already having doubts before the operation but that their commander insisted to proceed.
In an ambush interview, Aquino said that after the operation, he spoke with some of the police officers who said that their commander, then SAF chief Getulio Napeñas, prevailed over them when they raised apprehensions over the plans.
"Nanggaling din sa mga tropa niya, nung pinaplano 'to, na nag-aalanganin dun sa detalye, at sabi nung iba, at ewan ko lang kung magsasalita pa sila ngayon," Aquino said.
"Pero sabi nung iba, lalo na 'yung nakausap natin, tapos nung operasyon, eh tila napahinto sila nung debate. Nung sa ganyan kasi, parang inaatasan 'yung tinatawag 'yung operator na sila bahala sa detalye. So sila bahala sa detalye, binigay tuloy mga detalye na nag-aalanganin sila. At ewan kung di na masagot nung tinatanong nila, basta bigla na raw umiral 'yung, sino ba pinakamataas ang ranggo dito? At natigil 'yung usapan."
Aquino made the revelation as the nation commemorated the third year since the Jan. 25, 2015 anti-terror raid, which led to firefights between elite police commandos and Moro rebels.
Several officials have said Aquino, who had command responsibility at the time, should be held liable for the botched raid.
Aquino blasted Napeñas' statement that the former administration had made police officials look incompetent after the bloody raid.
"I made them look [incompetent]? No, no, no, that's incorrect. He made himself look incompetent, cause' he actually performed incompetently," he said.
The former President had earlier insisted that the botched anti-terror mission was not his fault, pinning the blame instead on Napeñas, who allegedly disobeyed orders to coordinate with the Philippine Army.
In Thursday's interview, Aquino asserted that had his orders been followed to the letter, the operation would have had a different ending.
"May paraan na tama dapat ginawa eh. At nasabi ko na dati no, kung mayroon man akong malaking kasalanan d'yan, nagtiwala ako na honorable mga taong kausap ko, na gagawin ang desisyon na inutos ko sa kanila, sa lahat ng detalye, dahil ito'y tamang desisyon at logical na desisyon," he said.
"Hanggang ngayon no, may mga araw napapag-isip ako, bakit sumuway 'yung dapat sumunod? At di ko mahanap talaga matinong katwiran para gawin 'yun... Sino ba ground commander?" Aquino said, referring to Napeñas.
In a calm demeanor, Aquino advised Napeñas not to blame everyone for his own actions.
"Ikaw magpaliwanag ng lahat nitong mga desisyon mo. At siguro 'yung sa akin, umpisahan ko sa inutos ko sa'yong siguraduhin mong makausap 'yung mga aalalay sa'yo, bigyan mo ng supisyenteng oras para makapuwesto sila, matulungan ka, at hindi niya ginawa," he said.