President Benigno Aquino III visited for the second time the families of slain SAF troops in Mamasapano clash in Maguindanao on January 25 in Philippine National Police headquarters this Wednesday. Appearing to be his unsurprised visit, bereaved families allegedly heard PNoy scolded them.
The visit was not on President’s itinerary. Palace cleared that the head of the state was there to ensure the government is providing its commitments and assistance by concerned agencies to the bereaved families.
A relative of one of the families told broadcaster Anthony Taberna of DZMM that during the seven-hour meeting, one-on-one talks turned into an open forum where families repeatedly trying to get answers how the government will bring justice to their slain loved ones.
“Magtatanong lang po kami bakit tumagal ng mahigit 10 oras ang bakbakan, bakit walang reinforcement?” one of the representatives from bereaved families asked.
“Nagsimulang magtext sa’kin si Napeñas sabay kuha ng papel around 7:15 na napapalaban ang tropa, sabi ko padalhan ng reinforcement….at di ko rin alam na bandang hapon eh napapabalaban na rin ang 84th SAF…,” the commander-in-chief replied.
President reiterated it was not easy to provide military reinforcement as he likened request fire support to just texting friend for meet up.
“Kayo ba kapag kunwari itetext niyo friend niyo, kita tayo sa MOA, gan’un lang ba kadali sa inyo pumunta dun?” Aquino said.
“..ang may kasalanan d’yan, yung nagutos na papuntahin sila du’n, alam na delikado tinuloy pa rin at si Napeñas yun.”
“Sana po makakuha naman namin ang justice. Sana ipakita naman natin na mas makapangyarihan ang gobyerno kesa sa kanila,” one of the families bravely challenged Aquino, who wants justice over aid.
Apparently disturbed by reiteration, PNoy uttered suddenly “Anong gusto ninyo, kunan namin ng fingerprints ang lahat ng MILF? Aba madami ‘yun, para malaman natin sino pumatay sa mga kamag-anak niyo. Namatay rin ang tatay ko, alalm ko pakiramdam niyo kaya patas na rin tayo ngayon.””
The comment, according to Taberna, angered the families who criticized slow pace of investigations.
The Palace admitted no heated exchange occured between Aquino and the bereaved families.
“Wala namang naiulat na alitan o mainit ang pag-uusap. Sa kabilang panig ay nagkaroon naman ng pagpapaliwanagan at pinakinggan ng Pangulo lahat ng mga saloobin ng mga pamilya na dumalo doon,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
He added that the meeting paved the way for Aquino to explain what he knew happened during the encounter in Mamasapano.
“Patuloy pa rin ‘yung paghingi nila ng paglilinaw doon sa mga kaganapan kaya’t sinalaysay din ng Pangulo ‘yung kanyang nalalaman at kung ano ang kanyang pag-unawa sa mga naganap sa Mamasapano,” Coloma told reporters.
Several cabinet officials attended and gathered at the meeting, including Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, and National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz.
Also present in the meeting were acting Health Secretary Janette Garin, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva.
The assistance provided includes employment, education, housing, health, and livelihood, and the monetary assistance from the President’s Social Fund.
Aquino and the relatives of the fallen troops had their first meeting on January 30 at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. During the gathering, bereaved families opened about their requests for assistance.