Philippine lawmakers hold Aquino responsible for bungled mission

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 17, 2015 8:05 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine senate panel on Tuesday held President Benigno Aquino responsible for a bungled operation in January that left 44 police commandos dead, but lawmakers from both houses of Congress refrained from calling for his impeachment.

Aquino's handling of the secret mission to capture Malaysian militant Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, has created a political crisis for Aquino, and some Roman Catholic bishops and activists have called for his resignation.

"The president must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions" by a suspended police general, said Senator Grace Poe, head of a senate panel which looked into the botched operation.

She said Aquino was aware that Alan Purisima, his friend, was suspended on corruption allegations but allowed him to take part in the raid, instructing and communicating exclusively with him.

Last week, a separate official police report also found Aquino responsible for the bungled operation, violating the chain of command by allowing a suspended general to oversee the mission against Islamist militants.

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Both the police report and senate panel inquiry found Purisima and the ground commander, General Getulio Napenas, criminally liable.

But Feliciano Belmonte, leader of the 290-seat lower house of Congress, said Aquino's lapses in judgment were not an impeachable offense. Impeachment is a political process and Aquino enjoys a majority in both houses of Congress.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)