INSTEAD of shedding light on the circumstances behind the bloody clash last Sunday between security forces and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which killed at least 44 policemen, President Aquino’s “explanation” in his televised address last night has in fact opened more questions and bolstered more doubts on the official “misencounter” line being mouthed by the government.
Official accounts said that the “misencounter” between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – which has an ongoing ceasefire and peace talks with the government – happened when the police “entered” the MILF territory in a remote village in Mamasapano town. The elite police force was on a covert mission to arrest a fugitive Malaysian Islamist and his Filipino associate, who were both involved in several high-profile bombings and allegedly sheltered by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF. The SAF team was pinned down by both MILF and BIFF forces.
The national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa calls on the government along with other independent sectors to immediately conduct a thorough, honest and no-nonsense probe of this “secret” police operation that has gone awry. No stones should be left unturned in investigating the following, among others:
- Aquino’s culpability since he knew all along of – he actually sanctioned – the said secret mission of the SAF in Mamasapano;
- the reported active role of Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, despite being suspended from office for six months since December for graft charges;
- the alleged important role of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) which he heads, while the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which ostensibly controls the PNP, and the PNP officer in charge were both kept in the dark about the operation.
- the apparent role of the US military, part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which, if the suspicion that the operation was “directed” by the Americans was true, would clearly indicate a blatant violation of the Constitution and infringement on the country’s sovereignty.
- the supposed “non-coordination” with the MILF forces in that area as well as with the government’s military troops in the vicinity, which purportedly resulted to the “misencounter” with the MILF members and the “failure” of the military to timely assist the besieged police commandos.
Amid all this, SENTRO strongly urges the government and the board of inquiry not to whitewash the investigation and not to alter the facts so that truth and justice will be achieved.
At the same time, SENTRO reiterates its support for the peace process as the only viable, just and ultimate solution to the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao and elsewhere. Likewise, SENTRO warns the public not to be duped by right-wing elements who agitate for Islamaphobia or anti-Muslim sentiments.