JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she would look into the findings of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which blamed the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the Mamasapano incident in which 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were killed on Jan. 25.
De Lima also said she granted the request of the Justice Department task force to move the deadline for the submission of its findings from April 2 to April 16.
She said this would enable the task force to evaluate the sources of the MILF findings, particularly those that said the SAF commandos were liable.
She also said she would look into the MILF’s claim that a survivor among the SAF commandos had killed four MILF fighters who were sleeping in a makeshift mosque.
“That will be part of the verification in our investigation. That’s a question of fact so we have to determine if that is true or not. That should really be part of the investigation,” De Lima said.
Apart from the MIlF report, the Justice Department task force will also validate the factual findings of the police board of inquiry as well as the Senate.
The Senate report branded the killing of the SAF commandos as a “massacre” and said President Benigno Aquino III was ultimately responsible for the debacle.
The police board, on the other hand, said President Aquino violated the chain of command when he dealt with his good friend, then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, who was serving a suspension at the time on corruption charges.
De Lima said her team was particularly intersted in the Senate’s recommendation that murder charges be brought against MILF fighters involved in the incident.
De Lima declined to confirm reports that their key witness was able to identify members of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who killed the SAF commandos, many of whom were shot in the head at close range.
De Lima insisted that there would be no piecemeal disclosure of of the task force findings, since these could lead to premature conclusions.
The Justice Department probe is aimed at determining the criminal liabilities of people involved in the clash.
The Palace on Wednesday said it would leave it to the Justice Department what to do with the MIlF report.
“This report, as well as those of the PNP board of inquiry and the Senate, provide different views and perspectives on the incident that would hopefully contribute to the process of determining responsibility and accountability, such that the ends of justice may be served,” said Communications Secretary Hermino Coloma, in a statement.
“The Department of Justice has initiated an investigation and will take appropriate legal action. We also note that the MILF report alludes to certain ceasefire violations which may be handled by the third party arbiter, the international monitoring team,” Coloma added.
Also on Wednesday, a police official based in Mindanao debunked allegations that he duped some military commanders by inviting them to a “drinking spree” in a resort in Koronadal City on Jan. 24 to distract them from the Mamasapano operation the next day.
Senior Supt. Manolo Ozaeta, commander of the PNP Intelligence Group, told his superiors in Camp Crame that the party he threw for the officers of the 601st Infantry Battalion was a gesture of gratitude for their help in previous successful joint operations, and had nothing to do with Operation Exodus the next day.
Ozaeta explained his side after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV revealed that military officials were treated to a drinking spree the night before Operation Exodus. – With Sandy Araneta, Francisco Tuyay and Florante S. Solmerin
Trillanes’ expose was deemed a violation of the confidentiality of the Senate executive session but the senator said he obtained his information outside of the closed-door Senate hearings.
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said confirmed he invited Army 601st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Melquides Feliciano and the 45th Infantry Battalion commanding officer for a night out on Jan. 24.
In his explanation, Ozaeta said he was with the military commanders for 2.5 hours only as host for the traditional “boodle fight” dinner at the Del Rio Splash Resort in Koronadal City.
He said many more military men and police officers joined the dinner.
Ozaeta said the party was originally scheduled as a lunch or dinner party in November and December 2014 but was later moved to 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 upon the suggestion of his counterparts in the Armed forces.
Ozaeta it was “purely coincidental” that the Mamasapano operation was the next day. – With Sandy Araneta, Francisco Tuyay and Florante S. Solmerin