FORMER President Benigno Aquino III responded Thursday to tirades thrown against him by his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte, over the botched Mamasapano operation launched on January 25, 2015.
In a statement, Aquino maintained that his "only fault" was he had given his full trust and confidence to dismissed Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas in conducting an operation against two high-value targets, terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman.
"I promised to become silent for a year. But last Tuesday, President Duterte spoke [against me] so I believe it is right if I respond," Aquino said.
"If I made a mistake when I was the President that time, that is I never expected General Napeñas of lying to the President of the Philippines. I trusted a two-star police officer, whom I had promoted," he added.
Aquino's statement came two days after Duterte blamed him over the bungled SAF operation that killed the 44 elite police.
Aquino recounted anew that he had instructed Napeñas to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) about the SAF operation.
He, however, said that what happened was coordination "time after target" instead of "days before" launching the operation.
"I ordered Napeñas that it is necessary to coordinate with the AFP so we could prepare the mechanized units, artillery, airplane, the people and other assets needed to avoid pintakasi. Mr. Napeñas said 'yes,'" Aquino said.
Aquino also debunked Duterte's claim that SAF is merely "geared and organized into the service to meet the challenges of urban terrorism."
Citing the SAF'S website, he said the commandos are tasked to "conduct operations as a Rapid Deployment Force anywhere in the country, specifically in situations with national and international implication in the areas of Hostage Rescue; Commando-Type Unconventional Warfare; Search and Rescue in time of calamities and disasters; Civil Disturbance Management during national emergency; and other special operations."
"I will emphasize, 'anywhere in the country.' It is clear that SAF operation is not limited to urban areas," Aquino said.
As to Duterte's question why the military had not been deployed, Aquino said the mission should have been a joint military and police operation, had Napeñas coordinated with the AFP.
"The PNP (Philippine National Police) led the operation because they are the ones who found so-called actionable intelligence," Aquino said.
"And as a reminder, we implemented a law enforcement operation because we needed to serve warrant of arrest on Marwan and Usman. We all know that the PNP has the police power and right to serve arrest warrant."
Aquino also denied that the United States's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) intervened in the Mamasapano operation.
Duterte had claimed that the mission against the terrorists was an "American adventure with cooperation of some and apparently with [Aquino's] blessing."
But Aquino said, "I had not talked to any American about the operation. As far as I understand, the United States helped in the equipment and hardware where the intelligence came from."
"Even before my time, the United States is helping in the operation. During my time, I talked to a Filipino, the Filipino gave me the report and the Filipino conducted the mission. Even the asset who went near Marwan was asset of our government," he added.
Aquino also said that former Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Ging Deles never interfered in the operation.
He added that he could not answer who claimed the $5-million bounty because he never got involved in the rewarding of money.
Aquino further dismissed the allegation that he gave a green light to the operation to "place in jeopardy the lives" of SAF troopers.
"I could not avoid thinking that if only my logical and legal instructions had been followed, the Mamasapano tragedy would not have happened," said Aquino.
Duterte, in a speech delivered Tuesday, said he would create a seven-man fact-finding body to ferret out the truth about the Mamasapano fiasco. (SunStar Philippines)