A Bungled Plan

by Joseph G. Lariosa

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a  single loss.
“If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
“If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”

— Chinese Proverb

CHICAGO (JGL) – President Noynoy Aquino’s Oplan Exodus took a page out of Operation Neptune Spear (unofficially code name Geronimo), the U.S. Navy Seal mission to capture dead or alive Osama bin Laden when he allowed suspended Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima to call the shots while keeping in the dark his subordinate Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer-in-charge, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and his other security advisers of the operation.

Exodus succeeded in its mission with the killing of Zulkifli Adbhir a.k.a. Marwan but with a heavy prize – the massive loss of life of 44 members of PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF).

If there were no collateral damage in Operation Exodus, like Operation Neptune Spear, there would have calls for the extension of PNoy’s term beyond 2016, not resignation! There was no doubt that after the successful surgical-precision execution of Operation Neptune Spear, it burnished President Obama’s image and improved his chances to get re-elected.

President Aquino’s letting Purisima call the shots was like letting a suspended basketball coach draw up plays by remote control, which is unheard of, instead of the assistant coach, which is in keeping with rules of the game. What President Aquino should have done was to tell Purisima to brief General Espina, his assistant coach, about Oplan Exodus and wish General Espina the best of luck. If it succeeded without heavy casualties, Espina could always give credit to the support of both President Aquino and General Purisima, as “victory has thousands fathers. Failure is an orphan,” according to President John Kennedy.

But if it succeeded like a pyrrhic victory as it did happen, Espina had nobody to blame but himself. President Aquino’s allowing Purisima to run the show but concealing it from Espina and the Armed Forces of the Philippines was like President Obama giving the go-ahead of Operation Neptune Spear to capture “Geronimo” (Osama bin Laden) without letting bin Laden’s host government, Pakistan, know about the operation. But there was difference — Mr. Obama has a basis not to trust Pakistan.


It was Obama’s deliberate call to keep the Pakistan government from knowing about U.S. Navy’s Seal pursuit of Osama bin Laden because the Armed Forces Chief of Pakistan was a gracious host and protector of the architect of 9/11. I have no doubt, Mr. Obama took the risk of courting diplomatic protest from the Pakistan government because he could be privy to A-1 intelligence that bin Laden and the Pakistan military were having unholy alliance. I would have supported President Aquino to keep the Armed Forces out of the loop of Oplan Exodus if he ordered the verification of the claim of former Abu Sayyaf hostage Gracia Burnham in her book with Dean Merrill, In the Presence of My Enemies, (2003, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois) that “President Arroyo’s troops provide(d) the Abu Sayyaf with their daily bread (.)”

On page 223 of the book, it said, “We were told that it was because (Abu) Sabaya was wheeling and dealing with the AFP general in that area over how to split up any ransom that might be paid. Arlyn de la Cruz (a Filipino reporter) had warned us about that.

“You know, this is going to be a really big deal,” she said, “and everybody is going to expect their share.” “Sabaya was willing to give the general 20 percent of the action. But the messenger reported back that this wasn’t enough. “The general wanted 50 percent – when his own government steadfastly condemned the ransom concept altogether. We weren’t really surprised at this, as over the years we had read newspaper articles about generals’ wives installing floors of smuggled marble in Corinthian Gardens, an elite section of Manila, and about their children attending the best schools abroad. Those things don’t happen on a Filipino general’s salary.”


When ransom negotiation with general fell apart, the book said, a radio announcer, using coded messages, said, “The bank turned down your offer for the house that you wanted to sell, and they’re going to come now and take the house by force. My advice would be for you to leave the house so you don’t get in any trouble.”

In the same book, on page 253, it said, “Musab (one of the kidnappers) was trying to get one million pesos ($20,000) from a Manila senator for her (Ediborah Yap’s) release, but the senator kept stalling. This made Sabaya look bad, since he had announced over the radio that Ediborah would soon be released as an act of good faith on the Abu Sayyaf’s part. Now he couldn’t make good his promise, thanks to Musab’s wheeling and dealing.”

If President Aquino investigated this matter after he took power from President Arroyo and realized there was truth to these allegations by Ms. Burnham, he could have prosecuted the general, although, it is not yet too late in the day. And he could have used this collusion of the AFP general with Abu Sayyaf as an excuse to let the AFP be in the dark on Operation Exodus and the Filipino people would have gotten his full backing.

But as to Purisima keeping his assistant, Espina, in the dark of the operation, Purisima could do so only if he could show proof that Espina will be a liability, not an asset, to the operation.

For the carnage, President Aquino has nothing to blame but himself for not surrounding himself with trusted people, who can get the job done and who can tell him the truth no matter who gets hurt.


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