POSTSCRIPT / January 29, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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SAF operation run by P-Noy himself?

HIGH STAKES: How many more innocent Filipinos will have to die in this high-stakes game being played by Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the name of the Bangsamoro?

How come acting PNP Chief Gerardo Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is on top of the national police, were not informed beforehand about the Mamasapano operation where 44 elite commandos were massacred by MILF-BIFF marauders?

These are some of the questions befuddling the nation as it awaited the delayed reaction of President Noynoy Aquino, the Commander-in-Chief, to the four-day-old massacre.

Writing this column ahead of the TV appearance of the President last night to report on the national tragedy, we noted a news report that Mamasapano was actually a botched covert operation run by suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima directly reporting to Malacañang.

When asked if he indeed took over or gave direct orders to launch the operation, the President was evasive, could not give a clear reply. The reporters asking him were polite enough not to press.

In his 20-minute address, the President failed to give new information, often simply asking the public/media to just wait for the findings of a board formed to look into the massacre.

* * *

ANSWERS NEEDED: We were disappointed that the President did not address such questions as:

• How accurate are reports that Purisima, although suspended, executed the SAF plan under direction of Malacañang outside the chain of command? Why resort to a separate chain?

• What was the arrangement on sharing the reward for the capture or killing of Malaysian terror-bomber Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan ($5 million) and his local cohort Basit Usman ($1 million)?

• Does he not see that the MILF and the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) are actually allies on the ground with a common agenda for self-determination?

• What was the US participation in the planning and execution of the SAF operation in Mamasapano?

• Why is Malaysia backstopping the MILF? What is the deal with Kuala Lumpur on the creation of the Bangsamoro and the mooting of the Philippine claim on Sabah?

• What is the President’s long-term geopolitical view of forces and events leading to the possible Balkanization of Muslim Mindanao?

* * *

TRAGEDY: “It was a tragedy in the making,” according to a police general narrating to the Manila Standard Today how Purisima was put by the President in charge of the operation to arrest Marwan and Usman in a Maguindanao village controlled by the MILF.

In a news story written by Christine F. Herrera, Francisco Tuyay and Rio Araja, the MST quoted the general as saying:

“The President was aware of the Marwan covert operations. Purisima reported directly to him. In fact, the President went to Zamboanga prior to the troops’ jumpoff to Mamasapano so he would be in the vicinity when (Marwan and Usman), both bomb experts linked to the Jemaah Islamiya terror cell, are captured.

“The President was there as he expected the turnover of Marwan to the Philippine government. He would be there during the presentation of Marwan. The President expected a successful operation.”

But some things went wrong. After the bloody Mamasapano debacle, Roxas told media: A total of 392 elements of the PNP-SAF were involved in the operation, of whom 44 were confirmed dead, 12 wounded, while 336 were all accounted for.”

A Philippine National Police spokesman said yesterday the MST story was mere hearsay, but he did not directly belie assertions in the news report.

* * *

ROXAS OUT OF LOOP: The general said: “Secretary Roxas was kept out of the loop. No one else knew of the covert operations because the subjects were terrorists wanted worldwide by the US government, which even offered a $5-million bounty for Marwan’s capture and $1 million for Usman.”

There was “no clear leadership” other than a marching order that it was sanctioned by Malacañang. He said: “From the ground, the SAF officials reported directly to Purisima, who ran the operations from the White House in Camp Crame, despite his suspension. Purisima would then report either to the Executive Secretary or directly to the President.”

The MST further quoted the general as saying: “Roxas was so incensed that when he called for an emergency meeting, the first he did was confront Espina and the SAF officials and blamed the SAF. We felt no empathy from him. He blamed us.”

He reported Roxas as asking: “Why was I not informed? Why was I kept in the dark? Who was behind this operation?”

* * *

ESPINA OUT, TOO: Espina told Roxas he was also not aware of the Palace-sanctioned raid. He reportedly explained that the President allowed Purisima to run the operations because he had all the intelligence about Marwan whose moves he had tracked since 2005.

The MST quoted its source as saying: “Due to the sensitivity of the information, Purisima would not share the intel with anyone and asserted he had to personally run and oversee the operations.

“Purisima was told by the President to operate incognito. The President acceded to Purisima’s condition and ordered the Executive Secretary to provide him the resources, ammunition and artillery that his troops would need.

“So all the SAF (Special Action Force) men involved, including the 44 who perished, the 12 who were seriously wounded and a survivor of the carnage, were trusted men of Purisima.”

Asked what went wrong, the general said the MILF violated the ceasefire. He explained: “The ceasefire was in effect. We observed it. We expected the MILF to observe that too. There was no way we could coordinate with the MILF when the terrorists we were after were in their territory.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 29, 2015)

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