MANILA, Philippines – Purisima and Napeñas should have known better.
Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima and sacked PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas were giving “inaccurate,” “ambigious” and “untimely” information to key officers on January 25 during “Oplan Exodus,” a police operation that claimed the lives of at least 67 Filipinos.
According to the police Board of Inquiry that investigated the bloody operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the two police generals’ misinformation contributed to the bloodshed.
The report said about Napeñas:
“Due to inaccurate information from Napeñas, quick and appropriate counteractions were not made. The misleading information and the seeming lack of urgency on the part of Napeñas could have prevented [PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina] to take urgent action.”
On Purisima’s actions:
“At a crucial stage of the crisis, suspended CPNP Purisima kept providing inaccurate and ambiguous information from unreliable sources, which resulted in eventual erroneous decisions.”
The BOI said that Napeñas, as a “seasoned combat officer,” and Purisima, as an “experienced Intelligence Officer,” should have done a better job.
The report, the most comprehensive thus far on the Mamasapano bloodshed, was released to the public on Friday, March 13, 6 weeks after the death of 67 – 5 civilians, 18 Muslim rebels, and 44 elite cops.
Purisima’s wrong info
Purisima, who was then serving a preventive suspension order over a graft case, was also giving Napeñas information sourced from a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) contact.
“At a crucial stage of the crisis, suspended CPNP Purisima kept providing inaccurate and ambiguous information from unreliable sources, which resulted in eventual erroneous decisions,” said the report. But the information from the MILF contact, the BOI report noted, was not verified.
“There are indications that his contact from the MILF provided false or tainted information,” said the BOI.
Purisima’s text to Napeñas at around 9:45 am read:
“nagbigay ng directive order MILF central comm., wlang MILF pwde lumapit sa ongoing PNP opns in Mamasapano Sir, yung nagresist mga tao ni mohamadali tambato and basit usman wd wanted politician Sir, mahina pwersa nla, mabuti nag advise kasi mem MILF gusto magsali pina pull out na sila ngaun.”
(The MILF central committee gave a directive: MILF forces are not allowed to go near the ongoing PNP operations in Mamasapano. Some forces resisted, including those under Modamadali Tambato and Basit Usman with wanted politician. Their forces are weak. It’s a good thing the MILF gave advice because some members wanted to join the fight. They are pulling out now.)
Around this time, the firefight was “most intense,” according to Rappler’s previous interview with GPH-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) chairman Brigadier General Carlito Galvez Jr.
Galvez was still en route to Mamasapano from Iligan City at around 10:34 am when he texted his counterpart in the MILF, Rashid Ladiasan, to tell him that the CCCH had already asked the PNP for a ceasefire and ask that the MILF inform the MILF’s 105th base command to do the same.
At 11:19 am, Purisima sent another text to Napeñas, quoting information from his MILF contact:
“I asked our contact where they will withdraw direction. His reply…Going to marsh area Sir, meron ibang tropa, nakaharang sa daanan nila, ingatan ng tropa mga arm groups ng rogue politicians s baba banda ng Mamasapano, more or less 100 armado nakaposition.”
(There are other groups blocking their way. Make sure the SAF troopers are careful about armed groups of rogue politicians in Mamasapano. More or less 100 armed men.)
The BOI noted that as an “experienced Intelligence officer,” Purisima should have known better than to forward unverified information.
“In this case, the information received by Napeñas from suspended CPNP Purisima appears to have contributed to the misappreciation by the former of the situation,” the report said.
Napeñas, it turns out, effectively lied, or at least misrepresented the truth to Espina.
At around 1 pm, Senior Inspector John Garry Erana of the 55th Special Action Company, had already contacted the tactical command post, “shouting” that the company was “overwhelmed and flooded by gunfire.”
“Mauubos na kami dito (We’re being annihilated here),” Erana said, according to Police Officer 3 Lloyd Tano Ensoy, who oversaw radio communications from the tactical command post.
Ensoy tried to reach Erana after the frantic message but there was only “radio silence.”
But at 1:26 pm, Napeñas told Espina reports of at least 11 SAF troopers dead were not confirmed. “Ang report tao nila wounded pero wala pa patay sir (The report is that there are wounded troopers but no deaths),” Napeñas told Espina.
“It is likely that Napeñas, a seasoned combat officer, could infer from the radio communication of Erana and the succeeding radio silence as to that the situation of the 55th was on the ground….The misleading information and the seeming lack of urgency on the part of Napeñas could have prevented OIC PNP to take urgent action,” said the BOI report.
Text messages don’t convey urgency
The BOI report noted that based on “standard practice” in military operations, “communications conducted through text message exchanges do not connote urgency to respond or react.”
“The act of typing text messages indicate that the sender has enough time to construct the message and to wait for the recipient to reply at his available time,” noted the report, referring to the text exchange between Napeñas and Espina.
Text messages, the BOI noted, “had the risk of leading to misunderstanding and confusion.”
Purisima also failed to relay urgency to Wesmincom chief Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, who he was texting on January 25. At 7:57 am, Purisima texted the military general, his classmate from the Philippine Military Academy:
“Bok text sa akin ng dir saf…Sir location of SAF troops GC 68006 65717 and 6823465956.Nasa paligid ng first GC and mga kalaban & tuloy pa rin heavy firefight. Napindown tropa sa first GC at meron mga casualties sila. Baka puwede artillery support sa AFP.”
Guerrero replied, and said “ground tank and artillery support are made available.”
Purisima construed this to mean tank and artillery support was already being given to the beleaguered troopers. But in reality, Guerrero only meant that they were on standby and that it would be up to the ground commander to give the go-signal for the use of artillery.
“Even if the response was ambiguous, suspended CNPNP Purisima failed to clarify its deployment by, for instance, calling Guerrero,” said the report.
The last line of Purisima’s message, the BOI noted, showed Purisima’s “lackadaisical stance.”
The line “Baka puede artillery support sa AFP (Maybe the AFP can sent artillery support)…does not connote a sense of urgency as it seemingly gave Guerrero a choice to either send support artillery to the battle zone, or not,” said the BOI. – Rappler.com