Searching For Answers

by Benjie Oliveros

During his speech at the commencement ceremonies at the Philippine National Police Academy, Pres. Benigno Aquino III again refused to apologize for the bungled operations that left 44 SAF police officers, 18 Moro rebel fighters, and five civilian dead and asked instead for “understanding.” He said he was fed the wrong information by people he trusted, referring to then suspended Police Chief Alan Purisima and then Special Action Forces commander Getulio Napeñas.

He also explained that the reason he did not join the families in receiving the dead bodies of the 44 SAF men is that he wanted them to mourn alone and that he wanted to face them only when he had all the answers. (Well, that is the worst thing to do to families of the dead, especially the ones who have many questions.)

President Aquino also declared that this is the last time that he would talk about the issue. (When 79 percent of Filipinos are not satisfied with the Aquino government’s explanations on the Mamasapano fiasco?)

There are three nagging, critical questions that the Aquino government has been evading so far.

First, why did the Aquino administration conduct a military operation that would endanger the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front? And it was no ordinary law enforcement operation as it involved 392 men from the elite unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Special Action Force. The BOI report mentioned that the effect of Oplan Exodus on the peace talks was never considered and never brought up even by President Aquino.

Second, why is suspended Police Director Alan Purisima heading such a critical operation? Why is President Aquino communicating only through him when Purisima was already suspended and relieved of his duties?

Third is the issue that even the Board of Inquiry created by the Philippine National Police and the Senate investigation did not delve much into. During the Senate Committee hearing, when some senators began asking questions about it, Napeñas and the senators were cut short by no less than Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, reminding them that it is an issue involving foreign relations and national security.

What is the role of the US in the Mamasapano operations?

The BOI report dedicated chapters to the Mamasapano operations, from the previous failed attempts to capture Marwan and Usman to the events leading to the formulation of Oplan Exodus. It even discussed the preparations that the main forces – the Seaborne and the 55th SAC – undertook.

However, in the chapter regarding the US role only this much was written:

1. US “counterparts” had been providing technical intelligence information about Marwan and Usman, which facilitated the formulation and execution of Oplan Exodus.

2. Six American nationals were at the Tactical Command Post in Shariff Aguak on the eve of the operations providing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) support to the SAF troops. They did this with the use of special technical equipment and aircraft (drones), which they themselves operated.

3. US forces helped in the medical evacuation of the wounded SAF troops by providing the helicopters, which US forces at the tactical command post piloted.

4. Napeñas ordered that the DNA sample (the finger) taken from Marwan be turned over to US personnel.

The Senate report provided more damning evidences of US “participation” in Oplan Exodus, which are as follows:

1. Napeñas brought 3 Americans into the Army Brigade HQ. A helicopter arrived and 3 more Americans came into the HQ and joined Napeñas at his worktable.

2. One of the Americans, identified by Napeñas as Mr. Al Kantz, supposedly handled the training of the Seaborne.

3. One of the Americans ordered [Major General Edmundo] Pangilinan to fire the artillery. However, Pangilinan refused and told him “Do not dictate to me what to do. I am the commander here.”

4. The Americans provided surveillance in the area through their ISR. The Americans brought in TV monitors to the HQ.

5. Napeñas admitted that a “US counterpart” was involved in intelligence cooperation, training and equipment provision, including providing the maps used for the operation.

The Senate report also read: “Working with an ally such as the United States apparently gives us access to information and access that have assisted us in our local operations.”

“However, the question is, what must we give in return? Are there any consequences to working with the United States in pursuing its global war on terror? Obviously, in the Mamasapano operation, the consequence of that mission is to get Marwan and Usman was the death of a large number of Filipino soldiers and civilians.”

“ The second consideration is, ‘Who is driving the cart?’ Was the Mamasapano operation authored by Filipinos? It must be remembered that the US offered a reward of USD 5 million (approximately P200 million pesos) for Marwan. Clearly, the staggering amount could have enticed law enforcers to conduct operations to support the interests of others despite the high risks involved.”

(This may be the reason why in the BOI report, it was mentioned that all joint operations of the PNP and AFP to neutralize Marwan and Usman failed, because either the AFP backed out of its commitment or Marwan was able to escape. The AFP even did an operation against Marwan on its own.)

President Aquino never did try to explain these things. In his supposed last speech on the issue at the PNPA graduation ceremonies and his two nationwide addresses what he tried to explain was why reinforcements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines were late. He never did explain the real purpose of the military operations, the question of command and Purisima’s role, and the participation of the US and its impact on our country’s sovereignty.

Perhaps, the search for the answers to these questions would take no less than an investigation that is not being led by the Aquino administration. (bulatlat.com)

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