INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II demanded that President Benigno Aquino III sack suspended national police chief Alan Purisima and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa in an emergency meeting sought by Roxas himself on Tuesday, (Feb. 3), but was turned down, a Palace source said Wednesday.
Roxas warned the President that protecting Purisima would trigger his (Aquino’s) downfall.
A police general earlier said that it was Purisima who planned and oversaw the top secret Mamasapano operation that killed 44 elite Special Action Force troopers.
“If you don’t fire Purisima, babagsak ka. That would trigger your downfall, Mr. President,” the Palace source quoted Roxas as warning the President during the meeting.
“I recommend the firing of Purisima and [Executive Secretary Paquito] Ochoa [Jr.]. This is the least that we can do for the families who are hurting and the start to show the government is sincere and is doing something to ensure that justice is served. We promised that justice be served,” Roxas reportedly told the President.
But the source said President Aquino stood firm and refused to fire Purisima despite Roxas recommending it.
Roxas also sought the sacking of Ochoa, who, as head of the Anti-Crime Council, was ordered by the President to fund Purisima’s January 25 covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“Hindi ko puwedeng gawin yan. I will not fire them. I can’t do it and I will not do it,” the President told Roxas.
Aquino’s refusal to fire Purisima, according to the source, angered Roxas because of the possibility that Purisima would be reinstated after serving the six months suspension due to charges of graft and corruption against him.
Purisima is serving the suspension for six months as ordered by the Ombudsman in December.
Roxas, the source said, recommended the firing of Purisima to avoid suspicion that the government intended to “whitewash” the ongoing investigations on the Mamasapano massacre.
“Roxas fears that Purisima could influence the ongoing probes to extricate himself of liability considering that the suspended PNP chief was able to run a major covert operation despite his suspension. Purisima’s influence over the President and the police force were unquestionable,” the source said.
“After several attempts to make the President understand that he needed to fire Purisima and were met with an emphatic No, Roxas walked out on the President and banged the door when he left,” the Palace source said.
The source said the President was in a meeting with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima at around 1 p.m. Tuesday when Roxas entered and sought an “emergency meeting” with the President for a “top priority agenda.”
Roxas insisted on a meeting about “something really important that cannot wait and needed immediate action.”
(Finance’s Purisima is not related to the PNP chief).
“The President allowed Roxas to join him and Purisima, who had witnessed the heated exchange between the President and Roxas,” the Palace source said.
A check with the President’s schedule showed that the Finance Secretary was in the Palace for a meeting with the President, when Roxas arrived and was allowed to join in.
“Mar was obviously upset since he just arrived from a very emotionally-charged visit in the wakes for the fallen SAF troopers in Cordillera province, where he talked to the families who demand justice,” the source said.
Roxas, the source said, believed firing Purisima would at least ease the pain of the families of the fallen heroes and placate the “collective outrage” by the Filipino people over the President’s lack of indignation on the massacre in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces, with whom the government was negotiating peace and his absence during the arrival honors at Villamor Airbase when the bodies of the fallen heroes came.
The President, at that time, had instead attended the inauguration of a new Mitsubishi plant in Laguna and even arrived late at the necrological service for the fallen heroes in Camp Bagong Diwa.
Roxas, the source said, was smarting from the conditions made by Purisima with the President that he would only provide all the intelligence information about international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian bomb expert wanted by the US government, provided he would be the one “calling the shots” and oversee the covert operations.
Purisima, according to a police general source, also demanded that Roxas and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Gerardo Espina be kept in the dark about the major operations.
Roxas and Espina confirmed the Manila Standard story that they were kept out of the loop.
“The President acceded to Purisima’s demands and condition. It was a tragedy in the making,” the police general, who requested anonymity, told the Manila Standard earlier.
“Roxas believed Purisima and Ochoa, who were not part of the chain of command, were given major and sensitive responsibilities that compromised the operation because they were not in a position to exercise authority due to Purisima’s suspension and Ochoa’s absence of authority over the police force,” the Palace source said.