Aquino attends car plant inauguration as bodies of slain SAF men arrive in Manila

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MANILA, Philippines – As the nation watched three Air Force planes land in Villamor Airbase with the remains of 42 of the 44 elite cops killed in an encounter in Maguindanao, President Benigno Aquino III was in Laguna, attending the inauguration of a manufacturing plant.

Aquino on Thursday morning gave a speech at the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s new plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

In his speech, he vowed to assist the local automotive industry.

He also inspected the plant facilities, which includes a vehicle assembly line and welding shop.

That same morning, the Philippine National Police gave arrival honors to members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who died in what the government called a “misencounter” in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao. Initial reports said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were responsible for the deaths but Aquino, in his national address on Wednesday evening, said a board of inquiry he had formed has yet to establish the details.

PNP officials said they expected the President to be present at Villamor but he pushed through with his visit to Laguna.

No snub

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte clarified that Aquino was not scheduled to attend the arrival honors. Instead, he will attend the necrological services for the slain policemen at Camp Bagong Diwa at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Valte pointed out that Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina were the ones who led the arrival honors.

Nevertheless, netizens questioned Aquino’s absence. Some asked why he chose to spend the morning with businessmen instead of sympathizing with the families of the slain policemen.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon also criticized the President, saying his decision to visit a car factory “speaks volumes of the president’s lack of basic respect for his servicemen.”

Ridon called Aquino “cold,” “unfeeling” and “spineless” especially for a commander-in-chief.

On Wednesday evening, Aquino declared Friday a National Day of Mourning for the slain cops. He also blamed the SAF head, who has been relieved of his post, for not coordinating with the military. He vowed to find justice “through the right processes” but also rallied the people to continue to support the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law and the peace negotiations with the MILF. –Kristine Angeli Sabillo



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