FORMER Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco reiterated that her nephew, former president Benigno Aquino III, should be held responsible for the Mamasapano clash in 2015, which saw the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
Cojuangco claimed that Aquino’s “utter ignorance” was the previous administration’s biggest error that led to the slaying of the 44 SAF members, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and five civilians.
“It was a fact that the president (Aquino) gave the police the direction to arrest Marwan and approved of the Oplan Exodus,” Cojuangco, who is also a full colonel of the Reserve Forces of the Philippine Army, said in a lecture titled The Mamasapano Saga: A Trail of Lie & Truth and the Decline of the Peace Process.
“He could have called in command and he would have alerted the staff against 15 to 20 members of the hostiles. […] So the president, you ignored that because you believed they were only 20,” she added.
Oplan Exodus was the codename of the police operation that aimed to capture wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli “Marwan” bin Hir and his Filipino associate Abdul Basit Usman, other Malaysian terrorists, and high-ranking members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The former governor also said that Aquino violated the Philippine National Police (PNP) chain of command by allowing then suspended director general Alan Purisima to participate in the planning and execution of the operation and hiding the operation’s information from then PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espinosa and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
“In order to accommodate the president to extricate him from a certain ignorance of the law and the civil service code is said that there is a chain of command in the PNP. Can you imagine if there is no chain of command in the PNP?” Cojuangco said.
The incident caused the Congress to halt the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, endangering the peace process between the MILF and the government.
“There was no more peace process; it’s already been broken,” Cojuangco said.
The Mamasapano clash marked its second anniversary last Jan. 25.
President Rodrigo Duterte has declared Jan. 25 as Day of National Remembrance of the heroic deaths of the 44 commandos.
The lecture held March 11 was organized by the UST Graduate School and was part of the annual St. Antoninus of Florence Lectures. F ANGELIQUE ANNE F. TORRES