Press Release
March 19, 2015

With Karen Davila
[PART 1]

KAREN DAVILA: Joining us in the studio, the woman of the hour. Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Order investigating the Mamasapano incident. Welcome to Hot Copy, Sen. Grace. Thank you for coming to Headstart, I appreciate it. Thank you.

SEN. GRACE POE: Thank you for having me again, Karen and good morning to your viewers.

DAVILA: Now, many people were surprised when you came out in a press conference holding a draft copy of the report and people did not expect you of all people to say, in a very calm tone, the President should own up to his responsibility. What did it take for you to do that?

POE: Karen, it's probably the most difficult thing I have done ever since I entered government. First of all, I have high regard for the President and I continue to have that high regard for him. I consider him a friend, this is very difficult, plus you're investigating institutions; the PNP, the AFP, and then you also have other groups like the MILF or even a foreign entity. So, these are all major groups, organizations, individuals, you don't want to deface also institutions. But you have to really come up with the right conclusions because this is used to prevent future occurrences of that nature. So, it was so difficult and up until the last minute, I was questioning myself, should I tone it down... should I be more diplomatic... but you know with the President, I think that it is a mistake... it is not a premeditated issue. Who would want that many lives lost? The intention was good, to neutralize two terrorists, who combined I think killed less than a hundred people and injured more.

DAVILA: Okay. So, clearly you went through some self-seeking, did you pray?

POE: Of course.

DAVILA: You did.

POE: That's number one. Pray to God, number one that I say what I need to say, what he wants me to say... I mean that's how I pray but it's also asking the intercession of my Dad, that' really important. I know he's courageous and but I know he also values his friends, but I think when it comes to what he needs to do, he doesn't. But alam mo, Sen. Cynthia Villar said something that stuck to me also, she goes... "Alam mo, ayokong nangpapahamak ng tao e." Ayoko rin Karen e, kaya nag-iingat ako talaga. Sapagka't reputasyon ng tao, masasabi mong buhay ng tao rin yan e. Lalong-lalo na ang isang Pangulo na ginagalang ko at ng marami na nagkamali.

DAVILA: Now, you have said that it's time for the President to assume responsibility. Do you feel it's too late in the day for him to apologize?

POE: You know, there are different considerations here... there's also the political. Perhaps for the political aspect, someone say it's too late in the game and but if you say sorry... well GMA said sorry. Did it help her? It didn't. But when you say what is right, what do you need to do? It's always best to ask for forgiveness if you feel that you made a mistake. And again, asking for forgiveness is not just saying the words "I'm sorry," it is also offering what you need to do. So that the situation will be better or so that at least people would believe that you are sincere about your pronouncements.

DAVILA: Now, the President called Gen. Magalong to Malacañang. Magalong said, clearly the President was hurt with the BOI report and considering the BOI report was I would say a little more gentle compared to the Senate Committee report. What would you do if put in a situation where the President would call you?

POE: Well, I think it would even be better if I had the opportunity, of course. I mean it's very difficult to explain because I always say that I didn't want to do this. I feel very awkward about it but of course it happened already. I released the report already. Of course, it will be a step harsher than the BOI because we have to make recommendatory functions in aid of legislation. Plus, we can also recommend the filing of charges whereas the BOI is more on operational and tactical of their organization. I know when Magalong... I appreciate his candor when he said the President feels bad about it. That's exactly my reservation in the beginning. I did not want him to suffer or to feel bad about it, but again, when I weigh it... I think the reason why he trusted me to be in his slate is precisely because maybe not thinking that you know, this will happen. But then, maybe because he thought that I was sincere, I was honest and I can do my work. So if I didn't do what I did then, I would have gone against the "tuwid na daan" that he would. That was the criteria I think, when he selected me.

DAVILA: Do you think... I'm curious, I know it's not on your mind but do you think it will affect your relationship with the President?

POE: As I said Karen, I still highly respect the President. Personally, I've met him a few times and I know he's a good person. In fact, when I was running... the reason why I decided to join their slate was, I said, "Mr. President, I don't think I have enough organizational funds to continue with the race." And he was like, "Ako rin wala..." You know, he's very honest. He was very honest. So I know he's a very sincere person. That's why I can say that you make mistakes and in any operation you can make a mistake but what leaves that doubt in our minds is because he coordinated with the suspended PNP chief, who happens to be suspended for corruption.

DAVILA: Now, in the Senate Committee report, which I have now. Number two recommendation, the finding is Police Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima committed Usurpation of Authority or official functions violating Article 177, which is a recommendation for a criminal charge.

POE: It is.


POE: So you can be imprisoned 6 months to 6 years but you know in imprisonment... I mean there might be a way to rationalize against it, they may lesser the sentence. But the point also and even if there are no criminal charges and administrative charge, I keep saying that is such a heavy sentence for a uniformed individual. For you to be dismissed for jeopardizing the best interest of your service, grave misconduct. You erased your legacy of leadership, something you've worked for, for decades. You lose your pension benefits... I mean for some it might be irrelevant but I'm sure for others, that still matters. So, these things are such heavy punishments.

DAVILA: To leave with no honor.

POE: Exactly, to leave with no honor.

DAVILA: Given that Usurpation of Authority is a criminal charge, in the committee report, do you feel the President, in any point, it would not be of course a betting or conspiracy but do you believe in a way he did assist in Purisima committing Usurpation of Authority, you have to remember the President gave the go signal all the way.

POE: Well in our report it says that the President assented to--meaning he allowed it and failed to prevent it. Now, we are being very careful with words and also how we phrase it. Because you see, in a way we didn't have the testimony of the President because we're co-equal branch. So we relied also on the documents we have. So it's very difficult for us to say that it goes beyond that.

DAVILA: Now, there's a group lawyers, coming from the Senate committee report, who believed the President can be sued after office that he faces criminal charges. Based on the Senate committee report, do you believe that?

POE: Well, he can be sued for almost anything... it could be nuisance suit... that's the tragedy of it. As the commander in chief, you have to take a lot of risks because of the good that you would like to achieve in the end. But I think motivations or intentions are important also in considering whether or not it's credible enough to merit a criminal offense with the President. Even commanders, mistakes that they make on the ground. Not in the planning stages or in the early implementation but on the ground. You cannot really file a criminal charge, unless you know it was intentional. Because that everybody will feel, they don't want anymore to exert any form of leadership.

DAVILA: Meaning judgment call, you can't fall someone alone for judgment call...

POE: For judgment call, for these things. Now with the President, that's exactly why the chain of command is very important. Of course, he has the prerogative and I agree you can go to any of your subordinates to give direct orders. But my point is, you follow that because the President is a very busy person. So if you went through the proper chain of command, somebody would have done the scrutinizing of the operation. If it was OIC Espina, he would have been more focused than hands-on. Because as I've said if you're a suspended PNP chief, you cannot let your people know that you're actively engaged in the situation. So, there are lot of things that you can leave out. You can't really be focused on what you're supposed to do. And that's why the tragedy was, he was in Nueva Ecija - texting.

DAVILA: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, I mean, supporters of the President have gone to lengths to say that there is no chain of command in the PNP, what does the Senate say and what do you say?

POE: Well, the manual for the PNP is for the PNP, but it goes without saying, and even in our Constitution, that the President is the commander-in-chief of all armed forces, that includes the PNP. And I believe that is important and that's there for a reason. When you're wielding guns, you need a clear chain of command because you have to have accountability and you have to have also supervision and control for all those things. I appreciate it that finally through somebody from Malacañang, and in fact the President has been saying it all along, that ultimately that the President, whether commander in chief or chief executive, as Secretary Coloma puts it, is ultimately responsible and that's what we said for the mission. I mean, I am not saying, ultimately for the deaths.

DAVILA: That's a good one, that's a good difference you made. Go ahead.

POE: Now, the mission will include everything that happened. As they say that in our country if there are media killings, press freedom is jeopardized; it will always point to the President. Even if let's say a local issue, especially this, because he gave a "go" to the mission.

DAVILA: In the Senate committee report, of course, the Senate committee report details the meeting in Bahay Pangarap, you had text messages? Or you just had the testimony of Napeñas?"

POE: We have the text message records of General Purisima and General Napeñas.

DAVILA: In No. 3 of the Senate committee report, it says "Napeñas committed grave misconduct violating Sec. 36 of the Pres. Decree 807." Now Napeñas was only recommended for administrative charges. Perhaps you can explain why and considering Purisma has criminal charges as a recommendation.

POE: Well, because usurpation of power, obviously, that's Gen. Purisima. Because Gen. Napeñas acted the way he should as the chief of the SAF. So he did not misrepresent himself. But when it comes to grave misconduct, as I've said, you cannot fault a person for a judgment call on the ground. But there are certain things in the planning stages. First of all, the President told him, "Coordinate with the AFP."

DAVILA: That's a good one. But he did not.

POE: He did not...

DAVILA: He followed Purisima...

POE: Next, time on target is not an adhered to principle in the PNP, unless it's just a minor operation. And the President, Napeñas said, was silent when he mentioned that it needs to be time on target. In the Oplan, that the confidential operation manual that Napeñas produced, it says there that he needs to coordinate with friendly forces. So all the names were there: AFP, even the mayor of Mamasapano, all of these things AHJAG, CCCH, it's clearly listed and he signed it.

DAVILA: He signed it?

POE: Yes he signed, he was the one who prepared it. And then, there was just one entry and exit point. I mean that is fatal. Because they know where you came in, they'll probably assume you'll come out there or at least prepare to that area. And then another thing also, you know there are many things that... Napeñas, his men, his abort plan is not complete. There are three abort plan conditions. Number 1 of course, if there already wounded, gravely wounded. Number 2, if they don't have enough ammunition anymore, bullets etc. And Number 3, with the presence of enemy forces. That's so unclear. Of course, there are enemy forces there. He didn't even say, he didn't consider that by the time they crossed the river, only a third of the SAF made it. They were 2 hours late to their target board. Their advantage is having night vision goggles but they arrived there when the sun was finally coming out.

DAVILA: So they got night vision goggles? Did they use it?

POE: Well, they didn't use it because by that time they got there it was almost light. So at that point, you could have said abort because you know why? It happened so many times before. They've aborted the mission. From Oplan Wolverine 1 & 2, I think, Terminator 1 & 2, there are many aborts because of what happened: like the boat I think had holes in it and they cannot cross... So what changes the situation? Obviously, they were very, I mean it seems that they were so (inaudible) already to do it. Plus, in our executive session, which now the promise I made to the public, if I feel it does not jeopardize national security I will release it and I did, with the foreign involvement. We asked Napeñas so many times. And he wouldn't admit to it readily, to think he was under oath and in an executive session. So I see that there's also a lot of not being forthcoming. So I am not surprised that he did not listen to the President.

DAVILA: I see, this is a good point. I mean what you're making about Napeñas holistically. It's not about the judgment call itself on the tactical operations but the fact that first, he disobeyed a direct order from the President saying coordinate with the AFP and he chose to listen to Purisima, that's a good one. That speaks of character too. And Number 2, he was completely forthright about the US involvement. Now, in your executive session, this was Number 6 in the Senate committee report, what struck you the most, in the executive session, when it came to Napeñas speaking about the US involvement?

POE: What shocked me the most was at the very beginning he was untruthful. Because he said, we were asking him, "So were there Americans there?" And it took a while and said yes. And then, "Papano nakipag-usap ba kayo? Did you coordinate?" His initial answer was "Bigla na lang nandoon na e." How will you believe that? That foreign... that the American was actually there because he just showed up? And then we said, "Ilan?" At first, tatlo o dalawa ba? Biglang naging apat, naging anim... Tapos later on we found out, they were already setup in the command post with television monitoring equipment etc. Now Karen again, it's not wrong for us, for inter-country sharing of intelligence, it's important; it's for the safety of our own people. And I don't think we find anything that the US was actually conducting ground combat operations, no. They were giving intelligence information, some equipment... for sure the scanner... And then Number 3, they were also there to train... They train these people. Maybe that's why there's that loyalty, because he admitted that that person actually trained them.

DAVILA: Yeah, his name is Al Katz.

POE: Senator Tito Sotto was the one who was able to get it out of him to say, "May Amerikano e, yung pangalan e... basta he mentioned the name and that's what we had to say because he figured out na "mukhang may nagsasabi dito."

DAVILA: So that's No. 1, it says here in the Senate committee report that one of the Americans, identified Al Katz, he trained the Seaborne unit, what about the issue of one of the Americans ordering Gen. Pangilinan, do you believe that to be true?

POE: I think so. I don't think he was lying. But the good thing about it was Gen. Pangilinan knew exactly the limits of a foreign involvement, on the involvement of the US and said, "No, I am the commander here," and rightly so, so he did it. So again you can see that at least Gen. Pangilinan knew the parameters of the agreement if ever this is covered.

DAVILA: Now you said it of course the Americans provided surveillance in the area through their ISR TV monitors, so for the record you do not believe that there was anything shady, questionable with the American involvement?

POE: What I can say is this, they are never very open about the extent of how they help us. And for an important reason also because it has to do with military operations. So I understand even the culture of the military itself. We wouldn't say it's secrecy, but that's one of the things that they value also... discretion. But it's really up to us to make sure that they don't go overboard. And I think in this particular instance, with the evidence we have, it does not really show that they went overboard in terms of participation. But we need to able to clarify because you see, with the mutual defense treaty, the EDCA also. The EDCA added the participation, not just the US military but also the contractual employees. So that could be covered by that. So we need to go back. Is it considered, allowable for them to be able to coordinate with local law enforcement with the police and not just the military.

DAVILA: Is it? I'm curious...

POE: There is an anti-terrorism council, the ATC. And I know that we are a signatory also with the UN security Council when it comes to anti-terrorism initiatives. So with that, they encourage all countries involved to share information and also assistance. That's why we have to be able to review all these things, to what extent will we allow them to participate. Let's say in local law enforcement especially, is it when it only involves an international terrorist? What if it's a local terrorist? We also want their help.

DAVILA: Okay. Alright, this is quite interesting and revealing. Our conversation with Sen. Grace Poe will continue after this short break...

-Commercial Break-

DAVILA: Alright still with us on Hot Copy, Sen. Grace Poe, she's the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Order. We discussed the Senate Committee report, but let's go back to the number one point the indicative findings of Senate Committee report we skipped through this. In the report you had said the MILF essentially, just to put it in layman's term, could face criminal charges for their actions even if it is in the middle of an encounter?

POE: Well I'm not saying the entire MILF. There are individuals and the MILF leadership said they acted in their individual capacities. So I say, if that's the case, then they are just regular criminals that should be put on trial. And it's not just the MILF, in fact at some point there were already some testimonies that the group of MILF retreated, the ceasefire apparently occured late in the afternoon. But there were also the BIFF and the private armed groups. So they are all together, that's why we're asking the MILF, submit what you know. Not just on your own people but the entire operation-- what you know, what you understand. Let me point out, you know people are very emotional about this issue. In fact, one of the things that really affected me, is also the feedback of the families, the justice that they seek. But let's not forget also that we cannot give up peace in Mindanao. Not because it will just-- you know some people say, it will just benefit them. Eventually all of us will benefit from this peace. The poverty rate there is double the national average. Illiteracy is double the national average. And of course crime, did you see that weapons equipment and personal belongings were returned not even by the MILF, but by the civilian community. Because in their heart and their mind they really want to push through. They're sick and tired of this fighting. I've spoken to a lot of civilian individuals within the area. So we have to push for it but not in the same way they're pushing now in the BBL. Clearly, if there's anything good that has come up out of this tragic incident is that we are woken up to be more careful and study the BBL.

DAVILA: Now can you set the record straight, was there truly a violation of the ceasefire agreement with the coordination issue? The MILF until today, says the PNP violated the agreement and that they should have coordinated. But Napeñas' lawyer, Atty. Aguirre said yesterday he pointed out in the session --in the agreement, if it is a high valued target, you need not coordinate. Ang tanong ng taong bayan, ano ba talaga? There can only be one truth.

POE: The truth is, if it is a high value target, you need not coordinate. 'Cause usually there's a 24-hour rule. And mind you, the prior coordinations they made in other operations have been successful. But I understand the reservation in the coordination this time. Because they suspect that Marwan and Usman are within the MILF territory. So I guess that's acceptable. But what we need to be careful about also is that our national intelligence, the NICA and the Anti-terrorism Council(ATC) should be repositories of all terroristic activities and information. So that if, let's say, you claim that there is a high value target, there is an organization that will verify so. Because the only reason why we're so sure this is a high value target is because they are even listed in the US wanted criminals. But I think here, with the Human Security Act that we have, we really need to update it. Because in the US they have the Homeland Security. So this particular thing dealing with domestic terrorism, we should be proactive, we should have a group that oversees all of it. Because right now, everyone is acting on their own and sometimes--you've seen tragically, they don't coordinate.

DAVILA: Is it a requirement for the MILF to submit their findings to the Senate before the BBL is even heard again?

POE: It will certainly show that they're sincere in negotiation.

DAVILA: Because its going to Malaysia...

POE: It's going to Malaysia because that's also part of their fault. Because in framing this peace agreement, in fact somebody told me recently, I just won't name who but its not confidential information. You know the panel, the government and MILF can't even directly speak with each other. They have a mediator in the middle who is also from Malaysia. Now they submit that to the international monitoring team. So, the person I was talking to said, well you don't need to ask the MILF. Just request the international monitoring team to submit the reports submitted to them by the MILF. In that way, they don't really break the agreement, and if you ask the international monitoring team--I don't know if the MILF can control the release of that. And if they do control it, then that means you know they're not sincere. So I think we will go with that.

DAVILA: Now, after the Senate committee report, Malacañang, when it comes to the BBL, is set to have it passed in June. The President has gone as far as talk to congressmen, which is quite natural. They do that even in the US, you lobby, which is quite natural in both houses of congress. And he's bound to do it in Senate. I wanna ask you, would you pass the BBL as it is, Sen. Grace?

POE: Absolutely not. I mean, right now we've seen the possible consequences. On the other hand, I believe that we need to look at the provisions and see. First of all, the MILF we've seen, does not control the area. That can really persuade me at that point if we deal with them then we are already inclusive.

DAVILA: I see..

POE: I think we should bring more people to the negotiating table. And then we should really focus more on that one part there that the AFP has to coordinate with their leadership before they can have a legitimate operation. This for me is probably contradicting to sovereignty and then the control of the commander in chief. So you know, these things are very worrying for me.

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