Senators slam rights agency’s statements
SENATORS Grace Poe and Francis Escudero debunked Monday the assertions of Human Rights Commissioner Loretta Ann P. Rosales that the Senate findings on the Mamasapano operation in which 44 police commandos were killed was driven by emotions.
The Senate report, which was signed by 20 senators, found that President Benigno Aquino III was ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano fiasco that claimed the lives of 66 people, including 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and five civilians.
In a text message to reporters Monday, Poe said “the committee report was based primarily on the testimonies of resource persons given under oath, as well as documents and reports submitted officially.
The executive summary of the report cites testimony of 37 resource persons during five public hearings and five executive sessions, and 4,300 documents presented to her committee.
Reacting to Rosales’ rejection of the term “massacre” to describe the Mamasapano incident, Poe said this referred to “the excessive force and ignominy which attended the finishing touches inflicted on the SAF troopers when they were already gravely injured but breathing as they lay defenseless on the Mamasapano cornfields.”
“A contrary view of the CHR chairman notwithstanding, we welcome her submission of the CHR report on its own investigation of the incident which may still be considered on amendments,” Poe added.
Escudero, on the other hand, rebuked Rosales for implying that only civilians have human rights.
“I do not know where Chairperson Rosales is coming from,” said Escudero..
“But I have one question for her: Don’t police and soldiers have human rights that are covered by the commission? Are civilians the only ones with human rights?” he asked.
He also insisted that what happened was clearly a massacre.
The dictionary defines massacre as “the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.”
“That’s exactly how it happened to our SAF men in Mamasapano, unless our CHR defines it in another [way],” Escudero said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, acknowledged that emotions had a role in the report, but said it was fair and objective.
“We’re just human, and all the senators have different perceptions on the what happened, he said. “It’s difficult to say that we should not be emotional about those killed.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said that emotion might have crept into the writing of the draft report.
“Probably, they wanted to present other things that would make people happy and the media people happy. But as I said, we’re not here for that. We’re not here to entertain everyone,” said Trillanes, a staunch defender of President Aquino.
Over the weekend, Rosales assailed the Senate report, saying it was “mostly based on emotions rather than an objective interpretation of facts.”
She also said calling the incident a “massacre” was “excessive.”
Twenty senators signed the 129-page draft report of Poe’s committee, which led the investigation together with Escudero’s finance committee and the peace, unification and reconciliation committee, chaired Senator Teofisto Guingona III.
Thirteen of the 20 senators have expressed reservations and manifested their intent to propose amendments, strong recommendations and to supplement the report with their own opinions on the outcome of the Senate probe.
In the House, administration and opposition lawmakers alike slammed Rosales for her “insensitive remarks.”
1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, a member of the House minority, dismissed Rosales’ claims as “fatuous and senseless.”
“Her comments have no basis in law and facts,” Bello said. “To my mind, the Senate, [and even the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry] reports are more exhaustive,” Bello said.
Bello said Rosales’ appreciation of the Senate report did not seem to help in the quest for justice for the Fallen 44 and their families.
“She should stick to her mandate: protection of human rights,” Bello, a former peace negotiator and former Justice secretary, said.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, also an opposition member, said the public could not expect any statement from Rosales critical of the government because she belongs to the Akbayan party-list, an ally of the administration.
Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the House independent minority bloc, defended the Senate findings.
“I do not know where Chair [Rosales] got her facts or whether she has really read the Senate report. But from our own reading, it is clear that the Senate got the facts straight, stripped away the non-essentials of the findings, and conclusions were unemotionally stated and respectful, even specially the part about President Aquino’s role and accountability,” de la Cruz said.
De la Cruz said Rosales’ assessment of the Senate report and her siding with the MILF and the government peace panel were the result of her being “blinded by her attachment to the powers that be... and the demagogic peace at all costs mantra.”
Administration allies, Reps. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list and Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental expressed disgust over Rosales’ apparent bias.
Alejano said that in the past, even when soldiers were beheaded by Muslim rebels, the CHR never complained about human rights violations.
Benitez chided Rosales for objecting to the word “massacre.”
“Twenty-six soldiers shot in the head at close range. What do you call that?” he said.