MANILA - As former president Beningo Aquino continues to heap blame on former Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napenas for the Mamasapano operation, the latter vowed Friday that "truth will come out" through President Duterte's pledge to re-investigate the tragedy that killed 44 elite cops.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Napeñas claimed that a police probe and 2 Senate investigations failed to uncover why Aquino entrusted SAF, not the military, with the January, 25, 2015 operation to neutralize international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.
"May mga hidden at hindi lumalabas na impormasyon tungkol sa tunay na dahilan kung bakit SAF," he said.
"Ngayon pa lang nagpapasalamat na ako at tuwang-tuwa kay President Duterte na magkakaroon ng truth commission. Sisiguraduhin ko diyan na lalabas ang katotohanan kung bakit SAF ang ginamit, at hindi military."
(There are hidden and unrevealed information on why SAF was deployed. As early as now, I am grateful and happy that President Duterte ordered the creation of a truth commission. I will make sure that the truth on why SAF was used, and not the military, would surface there.)
Earlier this week, Duterte blamed Aquino for the Mamasapano massacre, citing reports that the government, through the advice of then-peace adviser Teresita Deles, decided not to send military reinforcement for the SAF troopers as they fought off rebels, in order to preserve a ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Aquino on Thursday insisted the botched anti-terror mission was not his fault, blaming instead Napeñas who allegedly lied to him and disobeyed orders to secure cooperation from the Philippine Army.
The former president, in his 3-page statement, also denied direct participation in the anti-terror mission execution, the alleged interference of Deles and US in the operation, and the supposed stand down order for SAF reinforcement.
He also defended the deployment of SAF, noting that their mission statement itself specifies that the elite policemen may "conduct operations as a Rapid Deployment Force anywhere in the country," even in rebel-held areas.
EX-SAF CHIEF FIRES BACK
In the interview, Napeñas said Aquino is the one lying because he and his friend, then PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, were the brains behind the ill-fated mission.
"Diyos ko, ilang beses ko nang sinabi iyan. Hindi ako nagsasabi ng kasinungalingan. Sa lahat ng pag-iimbestiga at narinig ng ating mga kababayan, sino kaya ang nagsisinungaling sa amin? Kayo na ang maghusga," he lamented.
"Maraming indisputable facts na ang nagmamando dito ay si Presidente Aquino, at idinanaan niya kay General Purisma, maging noong siya ay aktibo pa at noong suspendido na."
(My God, I've said this several times, I do not lie. Based on all the investigations and what our fellow countrymen heard, who is really lying between the two of us? You be the judge. There are indisputable facts that the mission was led by President Aquino, and that he coursed his orders to General Purisima, when he was still in active service and even after he was suspended.)
Aquino, he said, gave the go signal for the operation and also attended a mission update with Purisima and police officials at the presidential palace on January 9.
On the day of the operation, the President also allegedly texted Purisma with the instruction that, "Basit should not get away."
Napeñas said Aquino could not claim that he was not aware of the mission or that he only learned of the fighting hours after rebels pinned SAF troopers in a cornfield.
"Sinasabi niya, he was not the part of the planning, preparation and execution of Oplan Exodus. Hindi ba kasama sa planning and preparation iyung briefing namin na nagsa-suggest pa siya na dagdagan ang tropa at coordination. Hindi ba siya kasama sa execution na nagbibigay siya ng utos through General Purisima?" he said.
(Aquino says he is not part of the planning, preparation and execution of Oplan Exodus. Was his suggestion to increase the troops and secure coordination not part of the planning and preparation. Was order to General Purisima not part of the execution?)
Napeñas also maintained that the military withheld artillery support for the SAF for hours, and only sent help after Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, received a call from an unidentified official.
He added that Former Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. later admitted to a student interview that artillery support was witheld to preserve peace talks with the MILF, whose fighters were among those that battled SAF.
Napeñas urged all those who supposedly know the true events that led to the carnage to come forward when Duterte reopens the Mamasapano investigation.
"Iyung hindi nabigyan ng pagkakataon na magsalita ng katotohanan, ito na ang pagkakataon nila na boluntaryong lumabas. Marami ang hindi nabigyan ng pagkakataon na magsalita dahil alam naman ninyo, pinagtulong-tulungan ako ng administrasyon ni Presidente Aquino na idiin at gawing scapegoat at fall guy," he said.