Press Release
February 9, 2015

Opening Statement of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
at the Mamasapano Hearing

First of all, let me reiterate my appreciation to the chair for having set the parameters to which this inquiry in aid of legislation will be conducted.

Last January 25, the country gained 44 new heroes. Sadly, we also lost the lives of all 44.

Since then, the operation to capture Zulkifli Bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman has to endure public outrage and a barrage of criticisms stemming from supposed flaws in how it was conducted. The profuse and intense focus on the errors of the operation, perceived or real, has taken center stage and has nearly eclipsed the bravery and heroism of our SAF commandos and what they had accomplished.

Indeed, there are many questions begging for answers. The truth, no matter how painful, must come out. Lives were lost, we must find out why. But our search for "the whys and the hows" must not be obscured by a blinding impulse or a single-minded purpose to merely find fault, or to finger point, or to lay the blame for blame's sake.

For us to turn against each other now would be nearly as tragic as the loss of 44 lives, and that is exactly what the enemies of peace would want to happen. The hundreds of Marwans and Usmans are still out there, and they would mock us from afar. If that were to happen, our heroes would have died in vain.

To those who now have the privilege of asking the questions; to those who now have the responsibility of giving the answers; and to the millions who deserve to know - let us, in this inquiry, find out: What happened? Why? Could we have done things differently? Was it worth it?

Lives were lost, we must find out how lives could be safeguarded and saved in future campaigns against terrorism and lawlessness.

The tragedy that has befallen our 44 heroes reveals the brute force and mercilessness of terrorism. This evil cannot be underestimated and, at the culmination of this inquiry, we expect to come out stronger in our fight against those threatening to cause mayhem under the guise of advancing an ideology. Let us review our counterterrorism protocol and security capabilities.

This is a crucial time in our quest for lasting peace in Mindanao. The death of our 44 SAF commandos in the hands of the MILF and the BIFF cannot be ignored and written off.

To our brothers in the MILF, I ask: Be one with us in finding the truth in the Mamasapano clash and in giving justice to the family of those who have been slain. Let the guilty be punished. Be one with us in our fight against terrorism and lawlessness - do not provide refuge to Usman and others of his kind. When the government goes after them, do not stand in the way; rather, show us the way. Now, more than ever, we must show the people that we both desire peace.

We already lost 44 lives. Let not peace and justice be the 45th.

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