Panelo clarifies Mamasapano commission is not to pin down ex-Pres. Aquino

MANILA — Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo clarified on Wednesday that the Mamasapano commission will be created not to pin down former President Benigno Aquino III but to determine the “real facts” behind the tragedy.

“Definitely not,” Panelo responded when asked in an ambush media interview if an independent commission will focus on possible charges to be filed against former President Aquino.

“The President is creating the commission precisely to determine the real facts behind the tragedy,” he added.

Last Tuesday, President Duterte told the families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members killed in the Mamasapano encounter that he will create a seven-man commission to reinvestigate the tragedy that took place two years ago.

“The announced creation by President Duterte of an independent commission to reopen the probe on Mamasapano is precisely to determine the culpability of those involved,” Panelo said.

Citing a Senate probe finding, Panelo said former President Aquino was the ultimate responsible person for the ‘snafu’ but “it appears to us that there’s seems to be no movement to that direction.”

“There have been many speculations who really committed the wrong, how the wrong committed. So, I think, it’s about time to put closure on this,” Panelo said.

When asked if the commission will summon Aquino, Panelo said it will depend on the mechanics to be adopted by the Mamasapano commission.

“But I supposed the commission will have the power to subpoena certain persons and officials,” he said.

“Under the law there is such thing as criminal liability. There is also so-called reckless imprudence. So we have to determine that who is responsible and what is the exact responsibility, administrative or criminal liability,” he added.

Panelo also said President Duterte announced the creation of the Mamasapano commission due to “crying for justice” by the SAF 44 families.

“And the President is precisely responding to that cry,” Panelo said.

On January 25, 2015, close to 400 SAF commandos of the Philippine National Police (PNP) launched Oplan Exodus to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb expert Ahmad Akmad Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Marwan was killed while Usman slipped away but the operation resulted in a nine-hour encounter with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other private armed groups.

Based on a Senate probe, former PNP chief Alan Purisima, then suspended by the Ombudsman for anomalous PNP contract, and SAF Commander Getulio Napenas have informed former President Aquino but not then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leadership.

Due to lack of coordination with military, the encounter has resulted in the killing of 60 people, including 44 SAF troopers.

Panelo said he has yet to receive instruction from the President how the commission will be created but he said independent thinkers could be appointed as the commission members.