Vatican discredits ex-SAF chief’s claim on Marwan threat

Paterno Esmaquel II
Vatican discredits ex-SAF chief’s claim on Marwan threat
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi says terrorist Marwan's reported plot to kill Pope Francis in the Philippines is 'unfounded'

MANILA, Philippines – Calling the report “unreliable,” the Vatican discredited the claim by a relieved Philippine police commander that Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as  Marwan – then one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorists – planned to kill Pope Francis in the Philippines.

In a media briefing at the Vatican on Wednesday, February 11, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the report, which came from sacked Special Action Force (SAF) commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas, is “unfounded.” Lombardi cited information from Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

“In the last few days there’s been talk of this hypothesis of an assassination attempt during the trip to the Philippines. Cardinal Tagle, who has his good sources, said the information is unreliable,” Lombardi said, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Quoting National Security Adviser Secretary Cesar Garcia Jr, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, for his part, said on Monday: “No specific report to this effect was received, and this threat was thereafter assessed to be minimal.”

Napeñas, reported the supposed threat during a Senate hearing on Monday, February 9.

He said at the Senate hearing: “Just recently during the Pope’s visit to the Philippines, we had information that the Jemaah Islamiyah in coordination with Marwan had planned to construct a bomb to be detonated as the papal convoy drove from TM Kalaw Street in Manila on January 18, 2015, These reports were not confirmed neither admitted nor denied by the Philippine National Police, but the fact, however, remains there exists this information.” 

Napeñas faces widespread outrage for leading an attack in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that led to the death of 44 SAF members, 18 Muslim rebels, and 3 civilians. (READ: Poe warns Napeñas of insubordination, misconduct)

The police operation, called “Oplan Exodus,” was meant to arrest terrorists Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped. (READ: EXCLUSIVE: Marwan’s ties that bind: From family to global terrorism) –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at