PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III summoned Philippine National Police officials who investigated the Mamasapano incident to complain that he was terribly hurt when they reported that he violated the PNP chain of command during the secret operation that ended in the death of 67 people.
PNP Director Benjamin Magalong, chairman of the Board of Inquiry, said he was called to Malacañang on Tuesday along with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina and BOI member Chief Superintendent John Sosito.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that Aquino met with the BOI at noon of Tuesday because “the President met them to thank them for their efforts and to give them the opportunity to clarify any matters.”
Magalong said the meeting was cordial although the President did mention some concerns, but that will not change the conclusion of the report nor will it require making a supplemental report.
“It was just for clarification,” Magalong told reporters as he related the points that Aquino raised during the meeting.
Magalong said Aquino encouraged him and Sosito not to be afraid and ask him what they want to know about the Mamasapano incident even as he himself raised concern that the BOI report blamed him for violating the chain of command.
But Magalong said he told Aquino “we never mentioned that he (the President) violated the chain of command but merely bypassed [it].”
“Sir, we never mentioned you violated the chain of command. We just said it was your prerogative to deal directly with former SAF director Getulio Napenas,” Magalong said.
The controversy over the chain of command emerged after the BOI said in its report: “The Chain of Command in the PNP was violated. The President, the suspended CPNP Purisima and the former Director SAF Napenas kept the information to themselves and deliberately failed to inform the OIC PNP and the SILG. The Chain of Command should be observed in running mission operations.”
A day after the BOI released its report, De Lima issued a media statement saying the BOI erred in saying Aquino violated the chain of command because the PNP was a civilian agency not covered by the principle of chain of command.
But former President Fidel Ramos, in a rare media briefing in Makati City on Wednesday, said he issued Executive Order No. 226 in 1995 precisely to settle legal questions on the chain of command in the PNP.
“This was specifically designed by me to apply to the PNP because of the gray area. This [EO] still has the force of law and has never been amended,” said Ramos, who was also chief of the PNP predecessor, the Integrated National Police, before he became president.
Even former senator Panfilo Lacson, also a former PNP director general, explained that the principle of command responsibility is ingrained in the PNP.
“The chain of command is present even in business organizations. What does chain of command mean? It’s the formal line of authority, responsibility in communication. This is the relationship of superior and his subordinate. So you cannot say that the PNP is not covered by a chain of command,” he said.
Magalong said Aquino reiterated that he was under the impression that the police and military officials were coordinating with each other in implementing “Oplan Exodus” on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Oplan Exodus was the codename of the secret operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino understudy Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed, but Usman managed to escape.
“He said the order to inform OIC [Espina] was given to [suspended] General [Alan] Purisima, but he clarified that he wasn’t able to give the instruction to [Special Action Force commander Getulio] Napeñas,” Magalong said.
Magalong said Aquino also asked why the BOI said in its report that he did not agree to an interview with the panel when he had told Magalong in a previous meeting that he was prepared to help them.
The discussion later revealed that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was too busy to inform Aquino that the BOI really wanted to interview him.
“Sa dami ng trabaho [ni Roxas], hindi nabanggit kay Presidente at dapat na-remind ko [Because of his work load, he wasn’t able to mention to the President and I should have reminded him],” Magalong said.