Aquino’s word vs BOI: Contradictions on Mamasapano
MANILA, Philippines – After the release of the report of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) on the Mamasapano operation, contradictions have emerged between the findings and what the President said in the past.
Additionally, some statements made by Malacañang during or in the wake of the investigation raised questions following the report’s release.
On Friday, March 13, the BOI, composed of Philippine National Police (PNP) officials, released a 130-page report on their findings on Oplan Exodus.
The operation, which deployed 392 troopers from the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) to Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on January 25, aimed to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman escaped.
Sixty-seven died in the operation, including 44 SAF troopers, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and 5 civilians.
Below are 5 contradictions between statements made by the administration and the BOI report.
1. No interview from the President
Immediately after the report was released, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Saturday questioned the "lack of due process" accorded to Aquino in getting his side of the story.
“The BOI in its efforts could have asked the President to clarify matters. The President would have answered any questions they may have had. But no official request was made. Instead, it introduced innuendos and resorted to speculations to reach some of its conclusions,” the statement read.
Lacierda said the BOI head, Police Director Benjamin Magalong, also could have asked the President further questions during a meeting together with senior officials of the PNP.
But Magalong on Monday, March 9, said the BOI reached out to the President in hopes of getting his side of the story, but said Aquino had yet to respond.
“We expressed to the President our intention of interviewing him,” Magalong said during a press conference. He said it was Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II who acted as their bridge to the President.
That same day, Aquino launched into a 30-minute long explanation in Malacañang on his take on Mamasapano, in front of religious leaders wherein he blamed sacked SAF commander Getulio Napeñas for the botched operation. He did not speak to the BOI.
2. Role of 'commander-in-chief'
The main thing Malacañang scored against the BOI was its findings that Aquino violated the chain of command by dealing with the Napeñas instead of the acting head of the PNP, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, over the operation. In the Palace’s view, the PNP, being a civilian organization, does not have a chain of command – a view supported by the justice department.
In a statement released on Saturday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the BOI report “starts on the wrong premise insofar as the role of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the PNP is concerned.”
But in 2013, at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises, Aquino told graduates his role as commander-in-chief of the police force was clear.
“My mandate as Commander-in-Chief is clear, and following the law is not a mere option. Those who refuse to follow my orders will not be spared,” Aquino said in his speech.
The President then was referring to members of the PNP who failed to enforce a ban on logging. The commencement speech was also delivered in the wake of the Atimonan massacre, which also involved several PNP officers and personnel.
3. ‘The President remained silent’
Aquino, when he spoke on Monday, March 9, told religious leaders that he specifically gave instructions to Napeñas to coordinate with the military before the operation, and not when it was already ongoing.
“Remember, he promised at first [he would coordinate at] ‘jump-off’ – 10 pm – while I said days before. The days before was not followed, and neither was the 10. He coordinated when the troops were on their way back – when it was already ‘time on target (TOT)’ as they call it,” the President said.
But according to the BOI report, “When Napeñas proposed to the President the adoption of the TOT concept for Oplan Exodus, the President remained silent.”
4. Purisima’s role
Asked on January 28 about suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima's role in the operation, Aquino said his close friend was no longer involved after his suspension in early December, and was just there to explain details to him.
"If at all, maybe just jargon – General Purisima was helping me to understand it. But he was involved up to the point in time, directly, that he was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman. Then after that, if at all, he was very knowledgeable about the whole thing; he was explaining the intricacies of what the plan being presented to me was," he said.
The BOI report, however, made it clear that the President’s explanation of Purisima’s role was innacurate.
“There are indications that suspended CPNP Purisima was not merely acting in an advisory capacity. For instance, he expressly assumed responsibility for certain aspects of Oplan Exodus, such as when he assured that AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) support would be provided,” it said.
It went on, “Even if PDG Purisima was suspended, his actions indicate that he was asserting and exercising command responsibility in relation to Oplan Exodus.”
5. Plan’s feasibility
More than once, the President has said that when Napeñas presented Oplan Exodus to him, he said he was satisfied with the plan.
On March 9, Aquino said about his January 9 meeting with Napeñas: “In that presentation it seemed that everything was well thought of.”
He added that the only thing he was not happy with was the original plan to deploy only 160 when there would potentially be 3,000 to 4,000 Moro rebels in the area. His input led to Napeñas deploying more than 300 commandos.
In a meeting with allies from Congress, Aquino also showed detailed maps of the terrain and the intense planning that went into the operation, saying it was thoroughly planned.
In the BOI report, however, it said the planning of ‘Oplan Exodus’ was “defective" and packed with "unrealistic assumptions."
"Napeñas said they ‘own the night,’ but he probably missed the point that the enemy ‘owns the day,’" the BOI said. – Rappler.com