In the Mamasapano massacre, where the late President Noynoy Aquino met his political waterloo, it was Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and then Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile who spearheaded the campaign to have the probe on the death of the 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF 44) reopened.
While the committee on public order and dangerous drugs then chaired by Senator Grace Poe issued a report that President Aquino is ultimately responsible for the slaughter, it did not reach a plenary vote.
The former Senate president said many of the inquiries held by the chamber, after being terminated and the reports signed, filed, and publicized remained only as reports and never reached discussions and voting in the plenary, meaning that its use was mainly for media purposes.
Poe’s report had too many loose ends, according to both veteran public servants.
Marcos said the key to the closure of the Mamasapano probe would be detained Senator Leila de Lima who was then Justice Secretary who held back in the filing of criminal cases against the assailants of the SAF 44.
De Lima has also been the central person in the perceived cover-up to insulate Aquino from accountability in the incident.
Marcos lamented that the government had failed to deliver on most of the assistance promised to the families of the SAF 44 during the incumbency of Aquino.
Recognition of the martyrs and the assistance to the families were fulfilled only during the term of the incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte.
Marcos said the worst omission of the previous regime was the absence of any case in court to prosecute those responsible.
Up to this day, the widespread belief is that Aquino had direct involvement in Operation Plan Exodus that led to the bloodletting since he called the shots during the operation,
Credible reports indicated that Aquino played general and was in direct command of the operations.
He was also the one who ordered military reinforcements to “stand down” while combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were mowing down units of the 55th Special Action Company (SAC) that resulted in the death of 35 of its 36 members.
Prior to the ambush of the 55th SAC, nine members of the SAF assault force under the 84th Seaborne command were killed in the mission that neutralized Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
The 55th SAC, a blocking force, was deployed to cover the escape of their compatriots. The fierce battle involving the 55th SAC took almost the whole day of 25 January that makes all the claims about misencounter, miscoordination and even taking some officials “out of the loop” as claimed by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, questionable.
Enrile in arguing for the reopening of the inquiry said some high officials privy to Oplan Exodus allowed themselves to become instruments in concealing information from Senate probers.
The statement of Enrile also put into question the manner that Poe’s panel conducted the probe that was characterized as being too friendly to Aquino.
The panel report indicated that Noynoy was “ultimately responsible” for the deaths of the SAF 44 but Enrile questioned it saying that it did not provide details on Aquino’s misdeed.
Both the Senate and the PNP-Board of Inquiry reports ascribed some form of responsibility to Aquino as a result of the incident but none required Noynoy to testify on his version of the incident.
Noynoy, however, issued piecemeal accounts only through addresses made from the Palace in which he claims to have received inaccurate information on the incident and that his responsibility was only to the extent that he was Commander-in-Chief of the uniformed command that included the police force.
De Lima even tried to disprove the chain of command concept that puts ultimate blame on Aquino saying that it is a system observed only in the military and not the police force which is civilian in nature.
No satisfactory resolution that can be considered as enough to render justice to the slain troopers and their families has been obtained.