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PNoy asks for understanding over Mamasapano debacle


(Updated 5:36 p.m.) SILANG, Cavite — President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday fell short of issuing an apology over the deadly January 25 Mamasapano operation, and instead appealed for public understanding over the debacle.

Speaking before graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy and stressing that it will be the last time he will speak on the matter, Aquino asked the public to look at the issue from his point of view.

"Ang magagawa ko na lang, matapos masabi ang lahat ng dapat masabi, at magawa ng lahat ng dapat gawin, humingi po ng pang-unawa," the President said in the speech made on the same day Pulse Asia released the results of a survey showing Aquino is no longer the most trusted top government official.

Aquino said he would never authorize an operation that would endanger the lives of government troops.

“Ibigyan ko po ng diin: Hindi ko hahayaang pumunta sa isang tinaguriang suicide mission ang sinuman sa ating unipormadong hanay. Kapag nakita kong lubhang peligroso ang isang operasyon, ako ang pinakaunang magsasabing huwag na itong ituloy,” Aquino said.

“Pero sa ipinakita sa aking bersiyon ng plano, nakumbinsi ako na talagang pinaghandaan ito, at magiging maayos ang pagpapatupad nito. Ipinagpalagay din nating masusunod ang lahat ng inutos natin, lalo pa’t mga propesyonal ang ating nakakausap hinggil dito,” Aquino added.

The President sought to clarify his decisions related to the Mamasapano operation a week after a Pulse Asia survey showed that almost 4 out of 5 Filipinos were not satisified with his earlier explanations about the bloody incident.

Regret

Without naming names, Aquino said he regretted trusting certain individuals who handled the mission.

In his earlier speeches, however, Aquino said he was briefed by then-suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima and Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas about the anti-terror mission.

“Gaano man katindi ang galit ko sa ginawang pagsuway sa ibinigay kong utos, gaano man ang pagsisisi ko sa pagtitiwala sa mga taong itinago sa akin ang totoo, hindi ko mabubura ang katotohanan: Patay na ang 44 na miyembro ng ating kapulisan,” the President said.

Aquino also reiterated his earlier statement that he would bring the tragedy with him to his grave.

“Nangyari ito sa panahon ng aking panunungkulan. Dadalhin ko—at uulitin ko po—dadalhin ko ang katotohanang ito hanggang sa aking mismong libingan,” Aquino said.

The President further stressed that he was fed with wrong information with no sense of urgency on the day of the deadly mission, which ended with over 60 fatalities, 44 of them elite policemen.

“Subukan rin sana ninyong ilagay ang sarili ninyo sa sitwasyon ko. Kung sa umaga pa lang na una akong pinadalhan ng mensahe, tinapat na ako at sinabing, 'Sir, nagigipit na kami, hindi po namin nasunod ang sinabi ninyong koordinasyon kaya mabagal ang usad ng Armed Forces. Puwede po ba ninyo kaming tulungang mapabilis ang responde?' Kung nalaman ko ito agad, sa tingin n’yo ba, hindi ako gagawa ng paraan para tulungan ang ating hanay?” he said.

Mamasapano operation

On January 25, 44 members of the PNP SAF were killed in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

The firefight, which erupted despite a ceasefire agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government, happened after an operation to arrest three high-profile terrorists near MILF-controlled territory.

Seventeen MILF fighters and at least three civilians were also killed in the clash. The MILF, in a report submitted to the Senate, said it only fought back after the PNP SAF fired the first shots during the
incident
.

Days after the bloody incident, Aquino delivered a nationwide address, where admitted that he knew and he was being updated about the Mamasapano mission.

He also admitted that he tapped Purisima to explain the intricacies of the operation.

After his administration continued to draw flak for the operation, Aquino delivered another nationwide address where he took responsibility over the Mamasapano “tragedy." He also announced
Purisima’s resignation in this speech.

In a prayer gathering with Christian groups earlier this month, Aquino once again talked about the Mamasapano operation, this time Napeñas for the debacle.

Aquino said Napeñas fooled him and disobeyed his orders during the planning of the Mamasapano mission.

The President’s approval and trust ratings dropped to record-low levels in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident.

Senate, BOI didn't bother to ask

Aquino in his speech lamented how the Senate and the police's Board of Inquiry supposedly resorted to "speculations" about his role in the deadly January 25 Mamasapano operation.

In a speech at the Philippine National Police Academy graduation rites, Aquino said he was saddened by the fact that the bodies that probed the bloody incident did not get his side on the matter.

“Ang ikinalulungkot ko, imbis na magtanong sa akin ay naglagay ng ispekulasyon ang mga gumawa ng ulat. Maitatanong nga po natin: Paano naman makakatulong sa paglilinaw ng isyu kung hula ang gagamitin imbis na facts?” Aquino asked.

He nevertheless said that the Senate and the BOI reports affirmed facts on the operation that he earlier stated, particularly the lack of coordination during the mission.

“Sumasang-ayon po ang dalawang ulat sa mga nauna na nating pahayag tungkol sa mga detalye ng operasyon. Sa katunayan po, pinagtitibay ng dalawang report ang ating posisyon sa simula pa lang na malaking pagkakamali ang kawalan ng koordinasyon sa AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” he said.

I didn't want to intrude in their grief

Aquino III also sought to justify his absence during the arrival honors at the Villamor Airbase for 42 of the 44 police commandos killed.

"I wanted to give the bereaved families time to grieve," Aquino said.

Aquino maintained that he was not unsympathetic to those who lost their loved ones during the botched anti-terror mission.
 
"Ikinalulungkot kong may mga pamilyang nawalan ng asawa, kapatid, anak dahil sa nangyari," Aquino said.
 
"Ikinalulungkot kong sa pagnanais kong bigyan ng espasyong magluksa ang mga makakakita sa unang pagkakataon ang nasawi nilang kaanak ay may mga nag-isip na ako ay manhid at walang pakikisama," he added.
 
The President further said that he wanted to seek answers first before facing the families of the slain police commandos.
 
"Ang gusto ko noon ay makatulong sa paghilom. Ang gusto ko po sana, kapag may nagtanong, 'Ano ang nangyari? Bakit sila namatay? Ano na po ang mangyayari,' ay may dala na akong sagot," Aquino said.
 
"Kung ang naging sagot ko po sa mga katanungan ay 'Hindi ko po alam,' paano ako makakatulong sa paghilom?" he added. —KBK/NB, GMA News
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