President Benigno S. Aquino III attends the Malacañang Prayer Gathering at the Malacañan Palace Grounds on Monday (March 09, 2015). (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III attends the Malacañang Prayer Gathering at the Malacañan Palace Grounds on Monday (March 09, 2015). (MNS photo)

MANILA, Mar 10 (Mabuhay) — Critics are challenging President Aquino to accept responsibility for the Mamasapano carnage instead of pinning the blame solely on relieved Special Action Force commander Getulio Napenas.

Senator JV Ejercito said he sees nothing wrong with the President taking responsibility for the anti-terror raid, which saw 44 SAF commandos killed by Moro fighters.

“I think first of all, as commander-in-chief, I don’t think [the President] should deny whatever happened. The mission had very good intentions to neutralize and capture the two terrorists. The President knew from the start about the mission. His people are trying to distance the President and the President as well is trying to point at Napenas solely,” he said.

The senator likened President Aquino’s situation to the one faced by US President Ronald Reagan during the Iran Contra affair.

Ejercito said Reagan accepted blame for the scandal even though he did not fully know all the details about the move to sell arms to Iran.

“Dito baligtad dahil alam naman natin from the start na alam ng Pangulo ang misyon. Ito ay may blessing. Yung chain of command nasira na sa simula pa lamang,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes described as “self-serving” the President’s speech that pinned the blame on Napenas.

He said the President “conveniently failed to explain” why suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima was involved in the Mamasapano operation. He said Aquino also failed to explain why he himself did not inform his other officials of the sensitive operation.

The President on Monday refused to accept sole responsibility for the Mamasapano mission and blamed Napenas for disobeying his order to coordinate the operation properly with the Armed Forces.

He said Napenas could have aborted the mission after deviating from the operational plan but failed to do so, leading to the loss of lives.

He also blamed Napenas for his lack of professionalism and for sending wrong information about the progress of the mission, pointing out that SAF troopers were coming under heavy fire even as Napenas’ text messages showed lack of urgency to send more troops.

“Sinolo ni Napenas. Siya ang nag desisyon at may times na yung desisyon niya palpak. Pag alis niya sa akin nung January 9, lumalabas ngayon na wala siyang intensyon na tuparin yung utos ko sa kanyang mag-coordinate,” he said.

“Kung ako ang may kasalanan dito, bakit di ko aakuin lahat?” he added.

For his part, Ejercito said it is impossible for the President to say that he did not know what was happening when he was surrounded by top security officials, including the Armed Forces chief of staff and PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina, on the day of the mission.

“Mahirap sabihin na ikaw ay walang alam dahil kasama ni Pangulo ang top officials…Mahirap sabihin na siya ay nabola. Kung may impormasyon siyang kailangan, kasama niya ang lahat ng mga matataas na opisyal ng buong araw sa Zamboanga,” he said.

Political analyst Edmund Tayao said the Mamasapano mission was flawed from the very start because the President was coordinating with suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima instead of Espina about the mission.

He said the lack of coordination happened because the chain of command was not followed.

“Simula pa lang mali na e. Bakit hindi coordinated? Ang coordination ba ay nakasalalay kay Napenas, kay President o kay Purisima? Sino ba ang magsasabi sa kanya? There is a chain of command. Sino pa ang magsasabi? E di naman pwede magsabi si [Interior Secretary Mar] Roxas at Espina? Sino ang may sala?” he asked.

“Mahirap kasi di mo maamin ang nangyari exactly. Di mo maamin ang kasalanan mo. Ang mangyayari, sa pagkatagal-tagal tagal ng explanation. lalong walang maniniwala sa iyo. Wala kang credibility,” he added.

Ejercito also warned that the delayed release of the Board of Inquiry report on the Mamasapano carnage could be seen as a move to sanitize the report.

The BOI earlier said it would need three more days to finalize the report.

“It is better for the BOI to release because the longer you hold it, the more people will think it is being sanitized especially now that the President has spoken. Hindi naghing maganda ang timing kahapon,” Ejercito said. (MNS)