Sacked SAF commander apologizes for delay in peace process
MANILA, Philippines – Government chief negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) Front Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said relieved Special Action Force (SAF) commander police director Getulio Napeñas apologized for the way the Mamasapano clash has delayed the peace process.
"Napag-usapan namin ang coordination. At the end of the day, call niya talaga 'yan pero sana ma-save natin itong peace process. Nabanggit naman niya. Nag-sorry siya na naapektuhan ang peace process," Ferrer told reporters after the first day of the Senate probe on the clash that killed 44 elite cops.
(We talked about coordination. At the end of the day, it's his call but I hope we can save this peace process. He mentioned it. He said sorry that the peace process is being affected.)
Ferrer and Napeñas were initially seated beside each other during the first day of the Senate probe on Monday, February 9.
Ferrer said based on her computation, the peace process will be delayed by at least one month. "Instead of committee hearings, these hearings are what we're doing."
This threatens the Malacañang timeline to get Congress to pass the Bangsamoro law in the first quarter of 2015. This also means delaying the creation of the new Bangsamoro entity and, as a result, the decommissioning of MILF fighters.
"Kung wala kang Bangsamoro government, wala ka ring complete decommissioning. Ganoon talaga ka-importante, kabit-kabit talaga," she said.
(If you don't have a Bangsamoro government, you don't have a complete decommissioning. It's like that, they're all interconnected.)
After years of botched operations, the SAF finally got top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan". But the operations that were kept a secret from the military also killed 44 elite cops, the bloodiest operation in the country's recent history.
Napeñas defended the secrecy that prevented the military from preparing contingency plans to help in the SAF operations. He accused unnamed military officials of relaying information to the MILF to tip off Marwan and let him escape.
Ferrer lamented how the Mamasapano clash disrupted a ceasefire between government forces and the MILF, prompting calls from several camps to abandon the peace process.
The lack of coordination also prevented the military from being able to immediately assist the SAF commandos. Armed Forces General Gregorio Catapang Jr spoke of the threat of a full-scale war if the military hastily joined the firefight.
The military instead put to work the ceasefire mechanism. It called its counterparts in the MILF to stop the firefight. This took time, however.
The 55th SAF company that was trapped in a firefight with the MILF in the cornfields in barangay Tukanalipao had been walloped. Only but one from the SAF’s 55th special action company survived the clash and was able to escape.
Ferrer said they did not fail in reminding security forces on the need for coordination.
"In this instance, that was the goal. It was really to make a go. It’s a very legitimate operation to run after one of the world’s most wanted terrorists but that's what the value turned out. It really cost a lot, not just people's lives but also the peace talks," said Ferrer.
She said they've also been working closely with the PNP on issues involving the peace process – joint peace and security teams and running after the private armed groups (PAGS), for example.
Ferrer acknowledged she doesn't know if the mission could have been accomplished if proper coordination was made.
"I cannot say that if they continued the coordination, they will succeed in their mission. But what I can say is we could have avoided the breakdown in the ceasefire between the MILF and the government," she said. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com