Miriam: Mamasapano an 'orgy of truth-twisting'

Senator Miriam Santiago says of the Mamasapano players: 'Puro sinungaling eh. Kino-kontrol ko sarili ko. Pero iniisip ko: Gago! Gago, gago, gago!'

Ayee Macaraig

6:59:54am March 25, 2015

1:42:21pm March 26, 2015

'STUPID, STUPID!' Senator Miriam Santiago says this was her thought bubble while listening to the half-truths of officials who testified in the Mamasapano hearings. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

'STUPID, STUPID!' Senator Miriam Santiago says this was her thought bubble while listening to the half-truths of officials who testified in the Mamasapano hearings. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – "You know if you tell half a lie or half the truth, that's no longer the truth."

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said key players in the Mamasapano tragedy did not tell the "whole truth" in Senate hearings on the deadly encounter. 

Santiago blasted them in her talk on leadership at the University of the Philippines on Wednesday, March 25. 

"Puro sinungaling eh. Gusto ako i-impress. Kino-kontrol ko sarili ko. Pero dito iniisip ko: Gago! Gago, gago, gago! (They're all liars. They all want to impress me. I was controlling myself. But here I'm thinking: Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!)"

Reporters asked Santiago to name who she was referring to but she said, “I don't have to identify personally but it was an orgy of truth-twisting.” 

Santiago then scored the security officials, President Benigno Aquino III, and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their "half-truths."

“Remember that the oath is to tell the truth, the whole truth. They were telling the truth but from their own point of view so truth had many versions during that hearing,” she said. 

The senator responded strongly to the MILF report on the incident, which the group submitted to the Senate on Tuesday. The January 25 mission to arrest terrorists in the MILF stronghold of Mamasapano, Maguindanao, led to a firefight that killed 67 Filipinos, and endangered the peace process with the MILF. 

Santiago said it was "ironic" and "unacceptable" for the MILF to say that it did not know that Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, and Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman were staying in houses located 3 kilometers away from the MILF's “homeland.” 

“That's an incredible claim. So they cannot pass a test of credibility and that casts a shadow on the whole report. I cannot accept the high value targets are living right there, maybe not just the fringes, right there in their heartland and they disclaim any knowledge,” Santiago said. 

Santiago said this affects the MILF's standing in the peace process. 

"What does that say of their military organization? If they cannot even conduct simple intelligence gathering activities, they are not even capable of being treated as parties to the peace process," she said.  

In its report, the MILF recommended that its commanders from the 105th and 118th Base Commands in Mamasapano face "appropriate disciplinary action" for their "laxity" and "glaring failure of intelligence" in monitoring the entry of Marwan and Usman in the area near the MILF communities. 

Even with the submission of the MILF report, Santiago does not expect the Senate to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law soon. The Senate announced it will resume hearings on the bill on April 13. 

Known as the BBL, the bill seeks to create an expanded region with wider powers and resources than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Santiago's committee on constitutional amendments is one of 3 Senate panels tackling the bill. 

“We have to wait for all 3 committees to produce a coordinated report or 3 reports. I don't expect a report anytime soon. Don't hold your breath,” Santiago said. 

'Aquino wants to evade lawsuits' 

Santiago was among the 20 senators who signed the Senate committee report that held Aquino "ultimately responsible" for the tragedy, and blamed the MILF for the "massacre" that killed 44 elite cops, 17 MILF members, and 5 civilians. 

"I signed the committee report only to show the general sentiment. I simply wanted to express the sense of the Senate, as a collective."

Santiago said she does not agree with all the findings of the report, but supports the conclusion that Aquino bears responsibility for the operation. Still, she said she understood why the President does not want to apologize.

“He wants to avoid any liability arising from a confession after his term finishes in 2016. Remember that when he's no longer president, he becomes liable for all manners of suit. He loses his immunity. He is afraid that if he apologizes, some court might consider that is a confession admissible in law and in effect he will be his own worst witness,” said the constitutional law expert.

The senator agreed with analysis that the President would have been better off had he admitted what he knew about the operation from the start. 

“The truth should have been released immediately, the moment the crisis began brewing. Immediately, the President should have, by himself, told the truth to the Filipino public. Now there is the question of: 'Well if that is the truth? Why are you not apologizing?'"

'Federalism will create more problems'

In the wake of Mamasapano, leaders like Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte advocate for federalism as an alternative to the Bangsamoro bill. Yet Santiago shot down the proposal.

Santiago said federalism "will create more problems" but she was referring to a federal parliamentary system.

"The Filipino people will have to be made to realize that they will lose the right by their own single vote to choose the president of the Philippines. Imagine, you and I will not directly have the power to choose in our individual ballot who will be president of our country," she said.

“Instead, we will elect members of parliament who are the equivalent of the congressmen. And once elected, they, that gang – I was about to say gangsters of politicians – will choose from among themselves [the prime minister],” Santiago added. 

Santiago said a federal parliamentary form of government will not work because of corrupt politicians. 

“You know how politicians act, their actions are always attended by corruption. So if we elect corrupt members of parliament, if they put themselves up for sale, the candidate with the highest bribe will become the next prime minister.” – Rappler.com