Two years after Mamasapano, Duterte tells Aquino: 'You have to answer to the nation'

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The Mamasapano battle ended with 44 police commandos, 17 rebels, and four civilians dead. It also threatened the peace process with the MILF when lawmakers suspended work on the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would create region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday invited the families of 44 fallen Special Action Force commandos who died in Mamasapano, for a dinner gathering — to commemorate the heroism of their loved ones.

But their widows, fathers, and families can't help but ask the President - when will justice be served?

John Aniban, father of Police Senior Inspector Cyrus Aniban, has a lot of questions in mind — questions that have not been answered two years after the death of his son.

"Why were these young men sent without explicit firepower support and reinforcement? Why was the operation not coordinated with the military, who had all the firepower when needed," Aniban asked.

"Why were the nearest SAF units, the 45th and the 42nd Special Action companies, who were less than a kilometer away from the embattled 55th special action company, did not reinforce despite the call for help of their dying comrades," he asked further.

Aniban also said until now, the previous administration's promises of livelihood and employment for the widows and siblings of the fallen commandos have not yet been fulfilled.

"The promise to employ the wives, the widows, the siblings of the SAF44, to some they may be lucky. But most of them, specially the widows, the siblings of those who died single were only employed on a contractual basis or what they say job order," Aniban said. "The housing assistance, unfortunately there are a lot of obstacles, requirements and until now is not actually given."

He also lamented how relatives of the SAF 44 have been portrayed by the media.

"Right after the death of the 44 SAF in 2015, the government was so busy with good media coverage talking about the benefits and assistance for the dependents, which was uncalled for," said Aniban. "In the following months, I read in an article, in a national daily written by well-known journalist, branding the families of the SAF-44 as 'spoiled' because of the amount of assistance given them by the government."

"Sad to say, this is not all true. All of these [are] not true," he pointed out.

Watch: SAF 44 families score slow support from government

Melanie Duque, widow of PO3 Andres Duque Jr. and a mother of three, meanwhile, asked Duterte to grant the 44 SAF commandos the medal of valor.

"Lahat naman po sila ay nagbuwis ng buhay para sa bansa," Duque said. "Dalawang taon na po ang nakakaraan pero wala pa pong pag usad ang kaso nila."

[Translation: All of them gave their lives for the country. It's been two years and there wasn't any development on their case.]

Watch: Aquino awards Medal of Valor to two SAF 44

Other relatives of SAF44 have the same questions to Duterte — saying they believe that the President can finally give them the elusive justice for their loved ones.

"Sir President, it is you who we believe can help us. It is you who we believe can give us the justice we are long seeking for the tragic death of our loved ones," Erika Pabalinas, widow of Police Chief inspector Ryan Pabalinas, told Duterte.

While Guillermo Tria, father of Police Sr Insp. Max Tria, tried his best to hold back his tears — but said what happened to his son is still painful, and that the wound the tragedy brought to their family has not yet healed.

Duterte to Aquino: 'You fed them to lion's den'

President Duterte did not hide his disappointment with how the previous administration addressed the issue. In fact, Duterte said he was "pissed off" by how former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III reacted after the encounter.

Duterte said he was in the meeting in Zamboanga when Aquino sat down with some mayors in Mindanao, generals, and former Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas just after the tragedy. Duterte, who was Davao City's mayor at that time, said he could not bear to stay in the meeting.

"I was really, sorry to say I'd be honest, and you can criticize me for this… I was really pissed off," Duterte said.

Duterte recalled asking Aquino to excuse him from the meeting. "You know mister President, I will not characterize your behavior. But you have noticed that I just stood and I said mister President, medyo hilong-hilo pa ako sa byahe [I'm dizzy from the trip]. Can I have the indulgence to leave?"

Duterte revealed what was really going on his mind at that time. He said he finds it unacceptable that Aquino was asking one general what he would have done if he was on the ground.

"Patay na lahat. Mabaho na nga e. Tapos sasabihin mo sa isang heneral, kung ikaw ang nagpunta roon, what would you have done?" [All the men were dead. The bodies already stink. Then here you are asking a general, if you were there, what would you have done?]

Duterte said Aquino could have done better by explaining what really happened.

"Let it be brought in the open. It was an American adventure, with the cooperation of some. And apparently with your blessing," Duterte said, adding the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had a hand in the operation in Maguindanao to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

"You said 'kasalanan ko iyon'. But it is not enough. Sabihin mo sa Pilipino, sabihin mo sa akin kung paano ka nagkasala? "

[You said 'it's my fault.' But it is not enough. Tell me how you sinned?]," he added.

The President made it clear, he has no quarrel with Aquino and former PNP Chief Alan Purisima — but despite a lot of investigations, so many questions were left unanswered.

Duterte said he wants to put closure to the issue.

"Anong ginawa ninyo bakit [what did you do and why] you fed the soldiers to the lion’s den, to be eaten by death," Duterte told Aquino, saying his predecessor was so dependent on his PNP chief that Aquino was willing to turn a blind eye on the corruption allegations against Purisima.

Also read: Ombudsman affirms Mamasapano charges vs. Purisima, Napeñas

The President said he would create a seven-man commission to look into the results of the investigations made by the lower house, the Senate, and the Office of the President — to answer the questions on what happened that fateful day, and to finally deliver justice to the fallen police officers.

"I will appoint men of integrity and honor… If they will accept, maybe three justices of the Supreme Court, a few from the civilian sector, maybe a lawyer," Duterte said. "They will be independent in all aspects. They are free to summon."

The President also directed PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa and some police officials to look into the records of the 44 commandos, and study if they are fitting for the valor award.

"The highest honor I can give them is to award them the medal of valor," Duterte said.

Duterte said he will also declare "a day of remembrance" for the SAF44.