The indecision of former President Benigno Aquino III and then Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II during the crucial period when members of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were pinned by enemies who outnumbered them largely contributed to the death of 44 elite police units, President Rodrigo Duterte said, revealing hitherto unknown details of a meeting in Zamboanga where Aquino and Roxas were present.
Noynoy and Mar should be blamed for the 44 lives lost four years ago in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the President said in a speech during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino campaign rally in Cagayan.
“You know where? I was there in Zamboanga. Roxas was there… I was also there with (former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence) Bong (Go) and even Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco,” he said.
“We were summoned to the command conference. The two, Roxas and Aquino, they were standing around while we were waiting. They kept on talking. So, I proceeded to an Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) official and asked ‘What happened?’”
Duterte was told that many SAF members were killed or “wiped out,” when they entered the area.
Mr. Duterte asked why then there was no reinforcement, to which the ISAFP official responded, “Sir, there was no order issued. We wanted to go, but there was no order.”
He lamented that no reinforcement came to the rescue of SAF operatives who carried out the “Oplan Exodus” mission to capture Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Marwan, and other high-ranking officials of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, despite the presence of several military camps in the area.
“He wasted 44 lives for nothing. They could not even explain. Why were the police the ones who went when they were totally ignorant of the topography and the physical arrangement of the mountain there?” the Chief Executive expressed.
The President recalled his previous claim that he was with Roxas and Aquino when the unfortunate incident happened.
“We were just seated; the generals were there. He (Aquino) asked the generals, ‘If you were the general and you were there, what would you do?’ Son of a b*tch, I stood up and said, `Mr. President, I have a flight. I have to….’ I stood up, because it was very stupid. You ask things like that. The day is about to end. The soldiers (policemen) are dead. I stood up,” he continued.
Roxas, one of the opposition’s senatorial bets for the coming May midterm polls, was Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief when the Mamasapano massacre happened in January 2015.
The Chief Executive also expressed his frustration at the ISAFP during the Aquino administration on why members of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) elite unit were kept in the dark regarding the operation.
“There were Tactical Operations Groups (TOG) with helicopters. TOG of Davao, TOG of GenSan. TOG of Awang. Why was no call made to extricate those trapped? Until nightfall, they (Aquino and officials) were only talking,” he said.
“Why did you keep it under wraps? Why didn’t the police know? Why not the Army? And why weren’t there any help from the nearby helicopter units?” he exclaimed.
If anything, Mr. Duterte said the Mamasapano incident should be one reason for voters to not catapult Roxas back to the Senate.
“You want to bring him back to the Senate? DILG? He wasted 44 lives for nothing. To this day, he could not answer why he sent the police. That’s all I want to ask him. Why the police and why during the whole-day battle, you didn’t send the Army? Why was there no air support when there are many air assets in the surrounding areas?” the President said.
“If you can answer that what happened was for the good, then, put Roxas in number one. I myself will tell you to vote for this son of a b*tch,” he added.
Aquino, along with former police chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas Jr., are currently facing charges for the death of the SAF commandos.
Roxas, meanwhile, faced a Senate inquiry regarding the incident.
Mr. Duterte also criticized Roxas for lacking political loyalty. In terms of saving lives of the soldiers and civilians, Roxas did nothing, he said.
“He went to Aquino, from Trade secretary under (former President) Gloria (Macapagal-Arroyo), then he bailed out for Aquino, he became Transportation and later on Interior secretary,” he noted.
“I just wanted to ask but not to investigate. Why did the SAF enter the conflict area at 8 a.m.? The battle lasted for almost a day. There was a regiment just a few kilometers, so why was there no assistance given? That is what boggles my mind until now,” he said.
“Why was the military prohibited (to assist)? Now, what kind of transaction was there?” the President said.
Duterte also asked why the SAF was deployed when they are not used to a jungle terrain.
“Why were soldiers who are more capable in that kind of warfare not sent when they have a camp which was very near Mamasapano? Those are the questions I wanted to ask Roxas,” he said.
“Helicopters can arrive in 35 minutes, Awang in 15 minutes. GenSan in about the same. Ten minutes, 15 minutes. They were shot without any defense. They were given a coup de grace. Each one of them. Then you would allow him (Roxas) to return to the Senate?” Duterte said.
Sara wants to leave HnP
Tired of campaigning at the national level, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) chairman and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, meanwhile, revealed that she may leave the regional political party she founded.
Duterte made the remark after she was asked if there are plans to register HnP as a national party.
“Actually, to be honest, I am already thinking if I will really leave HnP, because I am really tired of this election, because everyone is just looking at me, everyone is just waiting for me. So, for now I will not support the move,” Sara said in an interview during their campaign stop in Koronadal City.
Clueless as to what might happen after the 2019 midterm elections, Sara said leaving the party she formed is not yet final.
Talks of elevating the party to a national level have been revived after Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario said the core of HnP is still talking about the possibility.
“Actually, last year, we have been talking about the possibility of going from the regional to the national (level), because there was a lot of clamor from different provinces,” Del Rosario said during the campaign rally in Tagum City last Monday.
He said that they did not have enough time to pursue that plan and Duterte was insisting there was not enough reason to go to the national level.
Del Rosario reiterated that Sara wants to see the results of the 2019 midterm elections this coming 13 May before they assess the matter.
Duterte said during the same interview that she miscalculated her experience in politics at the national level.
“I thought it was easy, because in Davao, it was easy to talk to politicians, but if it goes on a larger scale, there is a difference among people and it is really difficult,” she said.