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The House of Representatives probe on the Mamasapano incident shot down a move by militant solons to send 20 questions to President Benigno Aquino III regarding his role in the operational disaster that left 67 persons dead.
The committees on public order and safety, peace, reconciliation and unity voted to deny a motion by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares to send the questions to Malacañang and allow Aquino to respond.
Initially, the Makabayan bloc questioned the absence of President Aquino in the probe which the chamber resumed after two months of suspension.
But Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said inviting the President would be tantamount to a violation of the separation of powers.
Colmenares said the House probe would give the President the opportunity to air his side, especially after the police Board of Inquiry which investigated the incident failed to include Aquino in their interviews.
The partylist representative said sending the questions to the President would be a “reasonable compromise” in lieu of inviting Aquino to the probe.
“The President himself is asking for him to answer. The House will not be respecting its constitutional duty to hear this case without sending a letter of request,” Colmenares said.
But an Aquino ally, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, said the House could not just send letters to the President.
“It would really be impossible for 200 congressmen to be allowed to ask questions to the President… Ito ay paghihiya lamang sa Pangulo,” (It would embarrass the President) Erice said.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Farinas said the President might only be probed in cases of impeachment.
“Hindi pwedeng pasagutin ang President sa dami ng committees. Kung lahat magtatanong sa Presidente hindi na makakapagtrabaho yan,” (The President cannot be made to answer because there are so many committees. If everyone would be asking questions, the President would no longer be able to attend to his job) Farinas said.
Colmenares insisted that sending their questions to the President would not be tantamount to a criminal or civil suit.
“This is not a criminal or civil charge. This is simply asking a list of answers to a list of questions,” he said.
The House is clamping down on emotional lawmakers to maintain decorum in the investigation after its first hearing was criticized for being frenzied and circus-like.
Today’s hearing was also attended by some family members of the slain 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were sent to hunt down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Lawmakers are outraged over the involvement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the attack against the SAF, especially since the lower chamber is studying the passage of the bill on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The BBL will pave the way for the Bangsamoro in compliance with a peace deal with the MILF.
Following are the 20 questions submitted by the House Makabayan bloc for the President to answer:
Talk with Purisima
10. Were you not informed in the morning that the 55th Speical Action Company (SAC) was being engaged in an encounter?
11. The WesMinCom commander, (Lt. Gen. Rustico) Guerrero, testified that you were getting updates throughout the day at his headquarters in Zamboanga. Who were the officials updating you and what was the information they gave you?
12. What were your orders to Guerrero or Catapang, if there were any?
13. Were you aware that the CCCH was working toward a ceasefire in the middle of the fighting? When were you informed of this? Did you give any guidance in consideration of the peace talks with the MILF?
14. Did you give any orders to stand down? Did you not give orders to Catapang or (6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo) Pangilinan or to both of them not to fire the artillery in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where the 55th SAC was engaged with the MILF and other armed locals in consideration of the peace talks with the MILF?
15. Why was there no air support during the Mamasapano operation?
16. What can you say about Napeñas’ statement that you left them in the lurch and that this is the highest form of betrayal?
Lie about Purisima
17. Why did you lie in your first speech on Jan. 28 about the involvement of Purisima during the period of his suspension?
18. Why did you allow US intervention—from the planning, funding, training, ISR, and during the very conduct of the operation and the subsequent evacuation, as is obvious from the presence of six Americans at the tactical command post?
19. What is your legal basis for allowing this intervention by the US military in a PNP law enforcement operation—a purely internal matter—even though this is not covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement?
20. What was the extent of the participation of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in the Mamasapano operation? Why did the JSOTF close down on Feb. 24, 2015?
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