MANILA (Mabuhay) – Several recommendations on the scope and composition of the proposed truth body that will investigate the January 25 Mamasapano clash were discussed at the Senate on Wednesday.
During the hearing on the proposal to create a Truth Commission, Father Albert Alejo of the Society of Jesus Social Apostolate and Ateneo de Zamboanga University said the body should not only deal with facts but with the emotions as well of the affected sectors.
“Kailangan ang paghahanap ng totoo ay hindi lang datos [o] kung ano ang nangyari. Bahagi ng totoo ang mga damdamin, saloobin, galit. Anong nagawa ko at anong nagawa kong mali? Pero hindi ito kung sino ang may kasalanan kundi pag-amin at pagbabalik loob,” he told senators.
“It should be a Truth, Justice, and Reconciiation Commission. Angkinan ng kasalanan para makapagbalik loob. Sana hindi lang ito case build-up against the other, hindi yung ilabas ang mali ng iba at itago ang mali natin,” he added.
The proposed Truth Commission is expected to look into the deaths of 44 elite personnel of the PNP-Special Action Force following a clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on January 25.
The elite cops’ mission was to serve arrest warrants to two suspected terrorists—Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman— who were confirmed to be in Mamasapano town.
During the hearing, Datu Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, said the Truth Commission should be conducted in line with the provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, particularly on historical injustice.
“We propose that we align the creation of the Truth Commission with the BBL to address the legitimate grievance of the Bangsamoro. The Truth Commission may deepen the wounds so we should ensure that it would provide wider discourse on truth, justice and reparation,” he said.
“The Truth Commission can lead to learning from the past so the emotional energies can be channelled to address the legitimate grievances. The Mamasapano incident is not the first incident of misencounter, it is not the first incident of massacre. There has to be a more bolder scope on historical injustice,” he added.
Lawyer Raul “Rocky” Villanueva, dean of the Xavier University College of Law, said the Truth Commission should have five members instead of three as stated in the bill.
He said the chairman of the commission should be a retired justice and the members should include one from the Muslim Mindanao, but not necessarily from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; one from the private sector; a retired officer from the Philippine National Police “who has unquestionable character and integrity and retired so he will not have any connection with the present leadership,” and a member of the Department of Justice.
For his part, Dr. Edmund Tayao, professor at the Political Science Department of the University of Santo Tomas, said the Truth Commission should be made to centralize all the other investigations.
“The public is in quandary. If we can centralize these investigations via Truth Commission, the perception of the public will be addressed and they will not be in quandary as to which panel to follow. There will also be one report on the matter,” he said.
“This will help the perception that there is just one common investigating body that will conduct this inquiry,” Tayao added.
Ad hoc body
Meanwhile, lawyer Nasser Mahoramsalic, former commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and convener of Philippine Center for Islam & Democracy, proposed a creation of an ad hoc body that would just synthesize the reports of different investigating bodies.
He believed the Truth Commission is not the proper body to conduct the investigation.
“I propose an Ad Hoc Mamasapano Clarification Body to collect synthesize and make a comprehensive report. It must not hold investigation hearing. A truth commission is not the best instrumentality because of the nature of the Truth Commission,” he said.
He proposed that Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, be tasked to head the ad hoc body.
Asked by Senator Teofisto Guingona III on what will happen if the reports are irreconcilable, Marohomsalic said the body may employ expert witnesses and hold closed-door hearings to shed light on the matter.
Marohomsalic said the body may also call on the investigative bodies that made the report and investigate them. (MNS)