The senators on Monday closed ranks to defend their report that labeled the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident a massacre against criticism from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that their findings were inaccurate and emotion-driven.
Gil C. Cabacungan | @inquirerdotnet | Philippine Daily Inquirer | 3:09 AM | Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
MANILA, Philippines–The senators on Monday closed ranks to defend their report that labeled the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident a massacre against criticism from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that their findings were inaccurate and emotion-driven.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public order committee that led the investigation of Mamasapano, insisted that the report was largely based on official records and testimony gathered during a series of public hearings and executive sessions over the last six weeks.
Poe said she was standing by the findings and wording of the report, which found President Aquino “ultimately responsible” for the mission that cost the lives of 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and characterized their deaths in the hands of Moro rebels as a massacre and not a “misencounter,” the term CHR Chair Loretta Ann “Etta” Rosales claimed was the proper description.
CHR inputs welcome
“The attribution of massacre refers to the use of excessive force and ignominy [that] attended the finishing touches inflicted on the SAF troopers when they were already gravely injured but breathing as they [lay] defenseless on the Mamasapano cornfields,” Poe said, adding that she would welcome any inputs from the CHR for the final draft of the report.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero supported Poe’s explanation.
Escudero asked Rosales: “Aren’t rights of police and soldiers covered by the CHR? Are only civilians vested with civil rights? Aren’t our police and soldiers entitled to defend their human rights that were violated?”
He said the documents the Senate had obtained showed that 34 of the 44 slain SAF commandos were shot in the head at close range. “Whatever dictionary we use, this will fall under the definition of a massacre,” he said.
Escudero said Rosales wanted to shift the spotlight to the casualties on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the civilians in the area.
“But what can we do? The MILF does want to submit its report to us. We don’t even know who were the 18 killed on their side and if there were really 18 killed among them,” Escudero said.
MILF chair Murad Ebrahim said last week that only 17 MILF guerrillas were killed in the gun battle with the SAF commandos.
He said three civilians, not five, were killed in the cross fire.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito criticized the CHR for being too quick in brushing off the human rights of police killed in action while consistently defending the human rights of activists and journalists.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said he would rather call the death of the SAF 44 execution-style killings rather than a massacre, which meant the encounter was a mismatch, with one of the parties unarmed.
But Angara did not agree with Rosales’ statement that the Senate report was emotional.
“It’s tough to say we should check our emotions because the casualties were Filipinos. To be fair to the committee, they tried to be as objective as they could. With the heavy load of documents involved, it was not an easy job for the committee,” he said.
Angara said the CHR was better off using its time to look into the liability of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) in the merciless killings of the commandos.