Ex-Tarlac governor hits Aquino for mishandling Mamasapano encounter

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Photo by Mia Arra C. Camacho

THOMASIAN and former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting Cojuangco” has called out former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III for “avoiding responsibility” on the Mamasapano encounter, which killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF).

“It was utter ignorance that he allowed a little number of troopers to enter a territory of 1,026 hostiles just because they believed it was only 15 to 20 people,” Cojuangco said in her talk during the St. Antoninus of Florence Professorial Lecture at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex last March 11.

Cojuangco is the wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, brother of the late Corazon Aquino, who is Noynoy’s mother and president from 1986 to 1992.

Cojuangco said Senior Police Officer 3 Christopher Lalan, the lone survivor from the 55th Special Action Company (SAC), informed her of the hardships the SAF members endured to reach the lair of Malaysian terrorist and bomb maker Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as “Marwan.”

She narrated in detail how the SAF members were left “helpless” during the encounter after the request of the 55th SAC for artillery support or rescue was not given.

“Whatever reinforcements were needed, like infantry, air support, there were no support given,” she said.

Cojuangco expressed hope President Rodrigo Duterte would fulfill his vow to reinvestigate the botched police operation.

On Jan. 25, 2015, a deadly clash between SAF commandos and rebels from various armed groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, took the lives of 44 SAF members in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The operation called “Oplan Exodus” involved the capture Marwan and his aide Basit Usman. Marwan had a $5-million bounty on his head.

Cojuangco obtained her master’s and doctorate degrees in Philippine history in 1986 and 2004, respectively at the UST Graduate School. She finished her master’s degree in national security administration in 1998 and doctorate degree in criminology in 2010 at the National Defense College of the Philippines.

She served as governor of Tarlac from 1992 to 1998 and later became undersecretary for Special Concerns of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The lecture, titled “The Mamasapano Saga: A Trail of Lies and Truth and the Decline of the Peace Process,” was a research project intended to develop the awareness of Thomasians on the depth of the tragedy and discuss the international effort to eliminate terrorism in the country.

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