MANILA (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino III is refusing to apologize over the January 25 Mamasapano incident to avoid civil or criminal liability arising from a confession, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Wednesday.
At a press conference, Santiago said Aquino was aware that he would lose his immunity from suits once his term ends in 2016.
“He wants to avoid any liability arising from a confession after his term finishes in 2016. Remember that after he is no longer President, he becomes liable to all manner of suits. He loses his immunity from suit, both civil and criminal,” she said.
“So he is afraid that if he apologizes, in effect, some court might consider that that is a confession admissible in law and in effect therefore he will be his own worst witness. That is why he does not want to apologize. He wants to evade any criminal or even civil liability after 2016,” she added.
Various groups and several lawmakers have asked the President to apologize over the incident, where over 60 people, including 44 policemen, were killed, but Malacañang said Aquino already stated that he accepts responsibility over it.
Political analyst Prof. Prospero de Vera and public relations expert Reli German said Aquino’s reluctance to apologize was understandable, although both said apology could be done without using the word “sorry.”
De Vera said instead of using the word “sorry”, it would be better and more accurate for Aquino to use another term. “Yung equivalent niyan sa Filipino ay mas malalim at mas mabigat ang dating sa taumbayan. ‘Yung pagtanggap ng pagkukulang at panghingi ng dispensa,” he said.
German was of the same mind. “Kalimutan na natin yung word na ‘sorry.’ I deeply regret, talagang kinalulungkot ko ang naganap doon. Inaako ko ang lahat bilang commander-in-chief at pangulo. At gagawin ko lahat ang aking makakaya upang hindi na ito ma ulit,” he said.
Both De Vera and German are hoping Aquino will take the opportunity during Thursday’s Philippine National Police Academy graduation rites to take responsibility for the Mamasapano clash, without laying blame on anyone else.
Malacañang has earlier said Aquino need not apologize over the Mamasapano incident as he did not commit any irregularity in connection with the covert police mission.
At a press briefing on March 2, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, Aquino’s spokesman, said Aquino dealt with the Mamasapano mission at a “policy level” and not at the “operational level.”
“The President deals on the policy level. What is the policy on that? We fight terrorism. We promote peace. We make sure that we alleviate poverty,” Lacierda said in a news briefing.
The operation dubbed Oplan Exodus, which a police report said was doomed from the start, was designed to arrest three suspected high-profile terrorists in an area in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which the government has an existing peace agreement.
Lack of proper coordination, however, resulted in a clash between the operating police force and the MILF, backed by its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and several armed groups in the area.
MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier said MILF members only defended themselves during the incident. Seventeen MILF fighters and at least five civilians were also killed in the clash.
Days after the bloody incident, Aquino admitted that he knew and was being updated about the Mamasapano mission.
Asked on how Aquino should have handled the crisis, which has caused a sharp decline in his ratings based on a recent Pulse Asia survey, Santiago said the President should have told the truth from the very start.
“It should have started right from the very beginning. The truth should have been released immediately, the moment that the crisis becomes booming. Immediately the President should have by himself told the truth to the Filipino public,” she said. (MNS)