Alleged US role in Maguindanao clash probed

Monday, February 16th, 2015. Filed under: Philippine News
Members of Gabriela hold a protest in front of the US Embassy in Manila on Thursday to condemn the alleged involvement of the US government in the Mamasapano encounter. Militant groups criticized the Aquino government's silence on accountability issues pertaining the bloody clash between the PNP-SAF commandos and Moro rebels.(MNS photo)

Members of Gabriela hold a protest in front of the US Embassy in Manila on Thursday to condemn the alleged involvement of the US government in the Mamasapano encounter. Militant groups criticized the Aquino government’s silence on accountability issues pertaining the bloody clash between the PNP-SAF commandos and Moro rebels.(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The alleged US role in the infamous January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, will be covered by the ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to Secretary Leila de Lima.

“Definitely,” De Lima told reporters Monday, answering questions on whether the DOJ will look into the alleged US role in the clash. “That would be unavoidable to look into.”

“May reported or alleged involvement of the US and the extent and scope of involvement na lumalabas ngayon sa ibang mga news items, so it may be unavoidable to look into,” she added.

On January 25, more than 50 people, including 44 elite policemen, were killed when a police operation to arrest two high-profile terrorist targets resulted in a day-long clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has an existing peace agreement with the government.

In a February 5 report, the Manila Times, quoting unnamed sources, said the firefight erupted while American troops – after the US government supposedly paid the MILF – were fetching the terrorist targets from the rebel group.

In a Senate inquiry last week, relieved Special Action Force chief Director Getulio Napeñas admitted seeking the help of US forces in the Mamasapano clash, but only in extricating the injured policemen.

After news broke out about the Mamasapano clash, US soldiers who were in Mindanao to train their Filipino counterparts were seen assisting Filipino servicemen at the clash site.

De Lima said investigators would try to determine whether reports that the US had a role in the alleged misencounter would have “any bearing on the criminal aspect of the matter.”

She, however, admitted that more than the US alleged participation, the DOJ – through the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service –  would focus more on the criminal aspect of the incident, including determining what charges could be filed against individuals.

“Ang focus namin is yung mismong sa insidente, kung sino ang makakasuhan criminally,” De Lima said.

De Lima stressed the importance of what particular charges could be filed against the individuals, and whether they would be slapped with violations special laws on top of violations under the Revised Penal Code.

Among the special laws being considered for the Mamasapano incident are the Human Security Act and Republic Act 9851 or An Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

“Pag ina-apply kasi ang RA 9851, deemed absolved iyong mga common crimes, like murder, direct assault, serious physical injuries, etc… kaya pinag-aaralan ko nang seryoso, thoroughly, yung applicability nung RA 9851 kung puwede rin ba iyan sa Mamasapano incident,” she said.

De Lima cited as an example the Zamboanga seige, in which alleged members of the Moro National Liberation Front were charged for violation of RA 9851 on top of charges of rebellion and other crimes.

Apart from the DOJ, separate probes are currently being undertaken by the Philippine National Police, the MILF, the Office of the Ombudsman, and both houses of Congress.

A Senate bill has also been filed seeking the creation of a Truth Commission that will look into the Mamasapano incident. (MNS)

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