President Benigno Aquino III made a televised national address Wednesday night regarding the brutal death of 44 officers from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.
The President expressed his condolences to the relatives of the fallen police officers. He also declared January 30, 2015 as a Day of National Mourning to honor their heroism.
Here are the other key takeaways of Aquino’s twenty-minute national address, based on the transcript provided by Malacanang:
1) The PNP-SAF conducted the operation to capture two international terrorists – The President spent the first part of his speech telling the public the necessity of neutralizing Abdul Basit Usman and Zulfikli Abdhir aka Marwan. As noted in a previous report, the two are included in the United States government’s list of global terrorists.
“The primary duty of government is to serve and protect the people.” the President reminded the public, quoting Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution.
2) The President refused to give a categorical answer when asked if he gave the go-signal to conduct the operation – Aquino seems to have provided conflicting answers on the issue of whether he gave the go-signal needed to conduct the operation.
At one point, the President said that he was given a heads-up about the operation and that he reminded those involved with it to coordinate closely. “Sa paulit-ulit kong pagpapaalala ng koordinasyon, ang isinagot po sa akin ng komander ng SAF, ‘Yes Sir’ ,” Aquino said.
However, when asked a few minutes later by GMA News’ Lei Alviz about the same subject, the President said: “If they will have to coordinate with me for every action, then they will have to compete with all the other matters that need my attention.”
3) He admitted the lack of coordination between AFP and PNP in conducting the operation – While Aquino seems to be evasive on whether he gave the go-signal to proceed with the operation or not, he did not mince words in blaming the lack of coordination between AFP and PNP-SAFas a major factor that led to the death of 44 police officers.
“Kung may compliance pong nangyari sa atas kong siguruhing may sapat na koordinasyon, parang sinagad po itong very minimum compliance,” he said. Aquino stressed his point by saying that the Western Mindanao Command and the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army only knew about the PNP-SAF operation after the first encounter.
“Dikit na sa oras ng engkuwentro ang abiso, at mahirap masabi kung nagkaroon ng sapat na panahon upang ihanda ang ayuda kung kakailanganin,” Aquino said. He added that the terrain of the battlefield as well as the close kinship between the rebels in the area made conducting the operation all the more difficult.
4) Aquino is standing by the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – The President also took the opportunity to rebut the claims of those who say that the peace deal his administration has finalized with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be scrapped.
“Napakalaki na ang mga hakbang na nagawa natin dahil nagtiwala tayo sa isa’t isa. Napatunayan natin na kaya nating magtulungan,” he said, commending the MILF for forming an investigation panel to look into the January 25 encounter.
“Nakataya sa batas na ito ang buong peace process. Kung mabibigo ang pagpasa ng batas sa lalong madaling panahon, mabibigo ang peace process, mananatili ang status quo,” Aquino added.
5) Aquino is appealing to everyone to avoid making judgments for now – “Mayroon na pong board of inquiry na itinalaga upang makalap ang buong katotohanan. Abangan na lamang po natin ang resulta nito,” the President said, seeking to downplay speculations about what really happened last January 25.
“We will file all the necessary charges when we have all the evidence,” he later said after the national address.
For example, the Manila Standard Today published a story this morning detailing that suspended Philippine National Police chief Allan Purisima is actually the brains behind the botched attempt to capture the two terrorists.