Napeñas on SAF 44: No guilt over 'Oplan Exodus'
MANILA, Philippines – There were tears sheds, apologies given, and accusations thrown around in the aftermath of “Oplan Exodus.”
But for the police general who commanded the operation, there is “no such as guilt” in an operation that claimed the lives of at least 60, including 44 of his own men. (READ: BOI report: Oplan Exodus defective, 'heavily influenced by Napeñas')
“There’s no such thing as guilt. We did this together; alam nila iyon (they know that),” retired Director Getulio Napeñas told reporters at the sidelines of the police unit’s Memorial Day on Saturday, August 8.
Napeñas, who retired as a two-star general in mid-July, was chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) when close to 400 of his men entered Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 to target bomb makers Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan, Abdul Basit Usman, and Amin Baco.
“Oplan Exodus” is the bloodiest one-day operation in PNP history and the biggest crisis to hit President Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The President was criticized over his alleged indifference towards the families of the fallen SAF troopers and his supposed involvement in the operation.
“Exodus” saw top government officials – the former officer-in-charge of the PNP, the interior and defense secretaries – kept out of the loop in the lead-up to the operation. The highest officials involved in the operation were Napeñas, then-suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, Intelligence Group chief Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez, and Aquino himself.
Despite criticism over the operation, Napeñas, who climbed up the ranks, remained close to his SAF troopers.
“They are very close to me, they are very good men. Napaka-taas ng aking pagtitiwala [sa kanila] kaya malalim yung pinagsamahan namin (I have a lot of faith in them that’s why our ties run deep),” said Napeñas, talking about the SAF 44.
While there are no regrets for Napeñas, their memories linger, he said.
“Siyempre nandiyan pa rin' yun, nasa alaala natin lagi 'yan even hanggang sa huling hantungan ko (It will always be there, their memories will always be in my memory until the day I die). They will always be with me,” said Napeñas.
The SAF 44 made headlines recently after Aquino failed to mention them in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA). In contrast, Vice President Jejomar Binay gave prominence to the SAF 44 in his “true” SONA held a week after Aquino’s.
Roxas, who is also the administration’s standard-bearer for 2016, criticized Binay for “politicizing” the SAF 44.
Napeñas, who defended the controversial operation, refused to comment on the “politicization” of the SAF 44. “Mas maganda tanungin niyo sila kung bakit nila ginagawa iyan (It’s better if you ask them about that),” said Napeñas. – Rappler.com