Press Release
October 7, 2015

Question of Personal and Collective Privilege
Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile

Mr. President:

During my detention at the PNP General Hospital at Camp Crame, the central headquarters of the Philippine National Police, in the morning of January 28 this year, I learned with deep sadness and shock about the gruesome slaughter of the members of our elite PNP Special Action Force.

The SAF forces were then on a dangerous and delicate mission called "Oplan Exodus" in the remote, almost inaccessible Barangay Tukanalipao in the town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao to capture two of the most wanted terrorists identified as Zulkifli Abdhir also known as "Marwan" and Ahamad Akman Usman.

This development and the details later provided by news headlines and reports and actual footages depicting the merciless, cruel and brutal murder of a large number of our Special Action Forces, where 44 valiant men perished in the hands of the enemy and their coddlers gripped the nation with grief and anger.

With such grief and anger came disappointment and confusion. In the confines of my hospital detention facility, my mind too was flooded with questions on the disturbing events and factors which apparently led to the tragic fate of the SAF 44.

I understand the carnage started at dawn of Sunday, January 25, and lasted until late in the afternoon of that day. In those critical moments when the battle was apparently going on, I recall no word was uttered from the Palace, from the AFP, and from the PNP. None at all from any agency of the government or from the media. There was an ominous silence! Why? What happened? Was there a government paralysis during those tense moments?

Where was the Chief of Staff of the AFP as well as his General Staff? Did they know what was going on in Mamasapano? If they did, why was there no reaction, one way or the other?

Mr. President, little was said or mentioned about those who survived and were wounded in the battle, except that they were brought to the hospital for treatment and that they would be called upon to shed more light to what actually transpired.

A few days later, the survivors of the Mamasapano carnage were brought to the building where I was detained. They stayed with me in that building for quite some time. I had several personal encounters with them and their families. These were occasions too for me to talk to some of them, and they related their frightening recollections of the bloody massacre.

At the height of the investigations being conducted by different agencies and bodies, including this Senate, the survivors and their dependents had expressed to me their resentment and disenchantment as it seemed to some of them that the death of the SAF 44 was now largely being exploited to serve political ends, some for political propaganda.

The blame game had also begun, all at the expense of unraveling THE TRUTH about their misfortune and the greater misfortune of the loss of their brothers in the SAF.

My heart went out to General Leonardo Espina who broke down in tears while in Congress as he narrated what he called the "overkill" of his men, the brutality they suffered as he questioned how this could happen when supposedly there was a "peace process." He begged for the truth and fairness and justice for the Fallen 44.

SAF Director Getulio Napeñas, who was being blamed and bashed by some quarters as well, could not control his tears as he wept for his men.

I promised the survivors that I would bring up their case to this Senate should I be given the opportunity to return to the Senate in my capacity as a member of this Chamber.

This is why, this afternoon, in accord with my promise to them, I would like to inquire into and know the status of the much publicized Committee Report on the Senate inquiry conducted and concluded on the Mamasapano incident supposedly in aid of legislation.

Mr. President, all too many of our so-called inquiries "in aid of legislation", after being terminated, and the reports thereon signed, filed and publicized, end up as such - Committee Reports that never reach, much less discussed, debated and voted upon in Plenary.

I believe we owe it as a matter of solemn duty to the SAF members who perished, as well as to those who survived by the grace of the Almighty, and to their bereaved families who until now are crying for justice, to place this crucial matter into the Records of the Senate Plenary Session.

It is not only for the courage, the valor, and the sacrifices of the fallen and surviving SAF members in that ghastly and brutal carnage to be placed in the annals of this august Chamber, but also to demonstrate to the general public and to let the people know how their Senate dealt with the complex issues that were discovered and brought to light during the Senate investigation.

They must know, as well, how each member of this Senate took their respective stands in the findings of the investigation and the specific recommendations contained in the Report.

The survivors of the national tragedy in Mamasapano and the families of the fallen members of SAF 44 had expressed their fervent hopes and prayers that only the real truth would come out of the investigations; that in searching for that truth, the blood shed, the lives lost, the extreme sacrifices borne and suffered, and the heroism displayed by those gallant, valiant and fallen men of the law in carrying out courageously their perilous police mission in the service of the Republic would not be dimmed by the passing time.

They nurse the understandable fear that the injustice done to them would just as quickly be drowned by the noise and frenzy of the 2016 election fever; and that if the tragedy is at all mentioned, such would only be used for political propaganda. After all, many among us who expressed their sympathies and their commitment for justice to be served and for those responsible to be held fully accountable are now aspiring to be the next top leaders of the nation.

Indeed, that would be another and perhaps more painful tragedy.

Now and in the future, let us make sure that the youthful lives of the fallen and martyred SAF 44 who were all too suddenly and brutally snatched from their loved ones would not be buried in the annals of history and the annals of this institution as just another one of those "unfortunate incidents."

Apart from my promise to the survivors of the Mamasapano carnage and to the families of those who perished in that battlefield, my personal concern in the Mamasapano massacre involves the safety, security, and well-being of the Filipino people and the national interest of the country.

It would be an understatement to say that the Mamasapano incident has had a far-reaching effect on the people's sentiments on the implications and the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill that is before us now.

I therefore reiterate my inquiry into the status of the Senate Committee Report, and ask that the same be deliberated upon in Plenary.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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