Press Release
February 12, 2015


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago: It's useless and it's not possible to pinpoint the blame for any single person for an operation of this nature. First, it's useless because 44 people have already died and we cannot resurrect them. Second, it's impossible. The defense being raised is that the operation has been kept secret except among three people: President Aquino, General Purisima, and General Napeñas. It's impossible to pinpoint who among the three of them is responsible. We can segregate them from the rest of the people involved because of the admissions made during the hearing that they had consultations that were just the three of them, including [Intelligence Group Director Fernando Mendez]. So, by their own admission--this is an admission against interest and constitutes very strong evidence--there were only four people there. Para natin masabi kung sino dito sa apat na ito ang talagang may kasalanan, 'yon ang mahirap dahil we have no evidence.

But certainly this was all part of the discharge by the President of his functions as commander-in-chief of the Philippine Armed Forces. So, in effect, all four must assume responsibility for the failure--in fact not only failure, but the massacre that took place. I am naming President Aquino because I don't think it serves public interest to fudge the issue--to never mention his name, like he was some sacred cow. I don't think he needs my protection. He can stand for himself.

Plus, no matter how strongly I will criticize the President, I will say that I am definitely against a coup d'état, which as of last report was already the subject of a summit meeting among the leaders of certain rogue groups who want to eliminate the President to make way for someone else, with respect to whom they have not reached a consensus. But they have been meeting with their financier; the most prominent financier is the richest man of all. I think you are familiar with who that is. I am against the removal of President Aquino in any means except those that are legal. As president, he can only be impeached. Thereafter, he can of course be sued. Therefore, my criticism should be taken as a surgical operation to determine what should not be done again.

And also, as member of the panel that is hearing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), especially on the aspect of constitutional amendments, it just changes almost completely my attitude towards the BBL. What is proved to me by these hearings is the lack of sincerity of the MILF in shooting down our men. Possibly with the BIFF, together, they shot down 44 Filipinos, who are all dead now. So how can you possibly deal with a negotiation partner who accepts perfidy as a mode of conduct? And I'm sure I'm not alone in taking this evolution of attitude. I'm sure many senators think the way I do.

What actions can be taken against those responsible for what happened?

They can be placed on court marshall, they can be charged as civilians in civilian courts, and undergo the process of preliminary investigation before the Ombudsman.

With the President, you cannot do a thing. He has immunity from suit, except impeachment. But he loses that immunity when he leaves office in 2016.

Can he be charged after his term?

Yes, that is a principle of law.

Can he be impeached?

Impeachment is not purely a question of law, but a question of how many votes he has in either chamber. If his party, the Liberal Party, has enough votes, they can kill an impeachment complaint in the Lower House alone, so it will never reach the Senate. Most people discount the possibility of impeachment because he has widespread support among the representatives and the senators.

You mentioned that the Geneva Convention has been violated. What is the process that we follow, and what are the penalties?

As I said before, the lower officials can be charged either in courts marshall or in ordinary courts of law, and follow the usual procedures of preliminary investigation. But under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), if the official has the rank of colonel or above, including the head of state, then he can be prosecuted in the ICC as long as someone files a complaint. So first, he has to be a colonel and above--general of various ranks, or the president, as head of state.

Would you say that the President has been forthcoming about his role in the operation?

No, not completely. I watched him on television when he said, "Matagal na 'yang pursuit of the terrorists Marwan and Usman, and I was informed during the entire course of that pursuit around Mindanao." And then he said, "So hindi ko na kailangang magsabi na i-go na yang SAF adventure; hindi na kailangan sa akin manggaling ang order dahil alam nila that I had approved the mission and that they are free to take action to achieve the objectives of the mission, which was to serve warrants of arrest on Usman and Marwan." I don't believe that for a minute. I'm sorry.

This is very, very important (1) for the BBL law, because it will reflect whether the ceasefire mechanisms agreed upon by our negotiators with those from the rebel groups will be respected, and (2) it will be very important because Malaysia has intervened and the United States has intervened as well. They are now saying that their intervention is limited to the offer of the cash reward. Blow me down! I mean, tell that to a six-year-old.

That is another aspect that must be investigated. Investigate the intervention of the US government, so we can see how much intervention took place and at what level it took place. Was there a drone there? We don't know. The important question is this: When the finger was cut off Marwan, why was it sent to the FBI and not to the NBI? Is there anything derogatory implied in the failure to give the finger for identification to the NBI?

Did you get the sense that there was a consensus among the higher-ups for Napeñas to take the blame?

Oh yes. He's a scapegoat. But he's a sacrificial lamb, at the cost of telling the truth to the entire Filipino people. It is correct for Iqbal to underline what the truth is. The problem is he and I have different versions of the truth. But in any event, it is important that we must know exactly what happened--that the government not hide the truth from its own people. That is the politics of lying. Just as the MILF is engaged in the politics of lying, our government should fall into the same temptation.

Do you believe President Aquino had a direct hand on Oplan Exodus and that he allowed General Purisima to participate?

The answer is categorically yes. He had a direct hand from the very beginning according to his own admission. 'Yun lang, ang version niya is, in the due course of the four years time that it took to catch this terrorist, he dropped out of the line of command, because anyway, people already understood what his position was. I don't buy that. Ito naman si Gen. Napeñas, walang choice. Kasi kung pipiliin nila si Purisima to take responsibility, aaminin nila that he violated the terms of his preventive suspension. That's why it had to be Napeñas.

You said that the mission was a failure. How can the president make up for it? Should he apologize?

That's a very difficult question. First of all, it will involve his admission that what he told the Filipino people in his televised message was not the entire truth. Maybe he can start from that.

On the alleged coup financier

He is one known to have funded similar coup d'etat in the past. That's why you know him.

Can you name him?

No, because he'll make a cry about it, although I'm immune from libel since we're discussing Senate matters within the Senate hall itself. I don't want to make a big deal out of it until after the DND is already finished with their investigation or their clarification.

On the BBL deliberations:

I don't know what the results will be because first, there has to be concurrence within the House and the Senate, and then in the Senate, there has to be concurrence among the three committees who have been assigned to the BBL. My committee on Constitutional Amendments is one of the three committees, so it's hard to predict what will happen. But in my view, BBL is unconstitutional because it violates what the Constitution provides for as the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country. Those are the guidelines set by the Constitution in providing for autonomous regions for regional autonomy. It's obvious that in the contemplation of the Constitution, the territorial units of our country are provinces, cities, barangays, municipalities, and autonomous regions. There's no mention at all of a sub-state. That's what they are proposing, a sub-state. That's why in my view as a scholar or as a student of constitutional law, it is unconstitutional.

Sa ngayon po, hindi po ba mas magandang just fine tune the BBL instead of stopping the hearing?

We can fine-tune it, but the problem is that our dialogue partner has already proved that they cannot be trusted. Kasi hindi naman sila dapat ang kalaban natin, eh. Ang kalaban natin 'yung dalawang terorista. Eh bakit kinupkop nila yung terorista doon sa teritoryo nila tapos sabihin mo kanina, hindi ba I was telling Mr. Iqbal, "Can you say with a straight face that you are not hiding those terrorists in your territory?" And he was still insisting on the opposite. That shows patent lack of sincerity. So, how can we pass a law to accommodate the wishes of our partner who is not in good faith? Plus, remember, under the BBL, the results of the deliberations in the congress, will be submitted to a plebiscite participated in only by the people of Bangsamoro, not to the entire country, that is contrary to what the constitution provides.

There are many reasons why it's unconstitutional, and with the permission of the chair of the major committee, the committee on local government, I will release my own report that I wrote personally on the reasons why the BBL is unconstitutional. Ang gusto nilang mangayri ay palitan natin ang ating Saligang Batas para makuha nila ang gusto nila. My goodness, that is the direct opposite of constitutionalism! Everything must conform to the Constitution, no matter how stupid or ridiculous the Constitution might seem to other people, everything there, word for word, must be followed. That is constitutionalism. So, dito, kabaliktaran ang nangyayari. Gumawa sila ng Bangsamoro Basic Law na may panibagong mga probisyon na wala sa ating Constitution, or even worse, salungat talaga sa ating Constitution. That is my direct objection. Parang ang attitude nila, palitan niyo ang Constitution niyo para makuha namin ang gusto namin. How impudent.

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