March 26, 2015 / 9:29 AM / in 3 years

Aquino takes responsibility for bungled mission in Philippines, but no apology

President Benigno Aquino reads his speech through a teleprompter during a graduation ceremony of police cadets at the Philippine National Police academy in Silang, Cavite south of Manila March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Thursday took responsibility for a bungled security operation in January that left 44 police commandos dead, but offered no public apology for the clash that has become his biggest political crisis in years.

Since the secret mission, Aquino’s approval and trust ratings have plunged to their lowest level in five years, and a peace process with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group has stalled.

“As president, I am fully responsible for any result - any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy - that may be borne of our desire for lasting security and peace,” Aquino said in a speech to graduates at a police academy south of Manila.

“To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation: It is with the abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding.”

However, he offered no public apology as demanded by families of the slain policemen.

This month, a Philippine senate panel and a police report separately found Aquino responsible for the bungled mission to capture Malaysian militant Zulkifli bin Hir.

The reports said Aquino had allowed a suspended police general, who was also a close friend, to supervise the mission, and said he had kept other officials in the dark about it.

Aquino disputed the findings of the two reports, saying he was not personally interviewed by senators and police investigators. “How can guesswork, instead of facts, help clarify this issue?,” he asked.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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