In an interview today on DZMM, AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang who was with the President in the morning of January 25 said that he did not inform the President of the ongoing Mamasapano encounter as he did not think it was yet that important compared to Aquino’s original agenda in Zamboanga. Aquino was already in Zamboanga at 8am while the firefight between the PNP SAF and various armed groups was ongoing.
It was only at 2:00 pm says Catapang that the President asked him what was going on in Mamasapano. By this time, the entire 55th SAF was already overrun by armed groups, having sent their last radio transmission.
News reports say that it was around this time that Aquino met with the military officials who were with him in Zamboanga. The meeting caused a delay in the President’s itinerary. Aquino would emerge from the meeting with the AFP officials and proceed to the Zamboanga blast site at 3:30pm and a hospital visit.
Catapang tells DZMM that he was not the one who informed the President and that Aquino was the one asking the questions in the afternoon of January 25. Strangely, it was only then that Catapang started updating Aquino of developments in Mamasapano up to 11:30pm that day, when the President had already returned to Manila.
At today’s Senate hearing, Catapang, DILG secretary Roxas and DND secretary Gazmin all said that they were not the ones who informed the President of the unfolding crisis in Mamasapano.
If not Catapang, Roxas and Gazmin, who then was updating the President? When did the President know of the Mamasapano crisis and what did he do upon finding out? Only the president can answer this question.
It certainly appears that someone else, very likely the suspended Alan Purisima, was updating the President. If the President was indeed informed earlier of the incident, what did he do? Why did it take him between 1pm and 2pm to meet his military officials in Zamboanga, at which time the entire SAF blocking force was already decimated. And why did the President simply went on with his original itinerary as the crisis was unfolding?
Was Purisima giving Aquino assurances that the crisis was being handled? If so, why was Aquino taking advice from a suspended official? Was Aquino simply clueless as to the gravity of the situation in relation to the lives of his own men and in relation to the peace process? The guidance he reportedly gave AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. GenRustico Guerrero .was to exert “best effort” in the rescue of the SAF.
The situation in Zamboanga also raises questions about the role of Purisima. If indeed he was the one informing the president and even AFP’s Catapang, it only shows that the operation was being run by the suspended PNP official.
When Purisima was asked by the Senate on whether or not he informed the President at any time about the debacle in Mamasapano, he avoided the question and instead requested for clearance from the President.
That answer alone tells us a lot about what was going on and who the President was listening to all the time.
The Aquino-Purisima clique is at the center of the Mamasapano incident. The two share responsibility for the bloody incident. The two cannot invoke executive privilege to cover up their involvement. ###