MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Tuesday, April 7, hit sacked Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Getulio Napeñas for the latter’s “interpretation” of President Benigno Aquino III’s actions in the lead up to “Oplan Exodus,” a bloody police operation that claimed the lives of 67, including 5 civilians, 18 Muslim rebels, and 44 troopers from the PNP SAF.
“Alam po natin kung ano ang facts. Ang facts ay ang huling utos ng pangulo, i-coordinate niya ito sa AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). Malinaw na sinabi ng pangulo na ang coordination ay dapat sapat na oras para ma-operationalize ang coordination,” Roxas said during the House of Representatives’ second hearing on the January 25 operation.
(We know the facts. The facts are that the President’s orders were to coordinate with the AFP. It’s clear that the President said enough time should be given for coordination so this could be operationalized.)
Prior to Roxas’ statements, Napeñas was explaining the SAF’s decision to coordinate with police officials and the military “time on target” or only after the troopers had reached their target. Before the House of Representatives and in his interview with the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Board of Inquiry (BOI), Napeñas said they had told Aquino of their qualms over coordinating with the AFP beforehand.
Napeñas, suspended and now-resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, and PNP Intelligence Group chief Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez, feared that coordinating with the AFP may compromise the operation.
“The President sat in silence, then directed the police officers to beef up the operatives who will be deployed for the high-profile and dangerous mission,” the BOI report said.
But Roxas insisted that Napeñas’ “interpretation” was unfair because the President’s last orders were to coordinate with the AFP. “The President also told Napeñas to coordinate with PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina. This also didn’t happen,” said Roxas.
Aquino himself was not interviewed by the BOI, supposedly because the board’s request was not relayed to him on time. The President later met with BOI chair Police Director Benjamin Magalong days after the report was made public.
“Oplan Exodus” saw some 400 SAF troopers enter Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, a known Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) bailiwick, without the knowledge of top military, police, and government officials.
It’s the bloodiest operation in PNP history and the biggest crisis to hit the Aquino administration.
After Roxas’ statements, legislators expressed concern that the Interior Secretary’s words would intimidate Napeñas, who was still being interrogated.
“Hindi po iyon. Sinasabi ko lang ang katotohanan (That’s not the issue. I am just telling the truth),” said Roxas.
“Gusto ko lang ilagay sa record ulit na hindi naman fair na magkaroon ng ganitong interpretation na hindi ako magsasalita (I want to put on record that it’s not fair to have that kind of interpretation without me voicing out),” added Roxas.
It’s not the first time Roxas defended Aquino from criticism stemming from “Oplan Exodus.” On the day the BOI report was made public, Roxas said the President was “not liable” for the operation.
Aquino’s role in the operation has the been the subject of intense debate. According to the BOI’s report, Aquino broke the PNP’s chain of command when he dealt directly with Napeñas and “allowed” the participation of Purisima in the operation even if he was suspended.
The Senate committee’s draft report on the clash, meanwhile, tagged Aquino as “ultimately responsible” for the deaths in Mamasapano for his failure to do more to save the beleaguered commandos.
Aquino’s ratings have dipped to their lowest in the aftermath of the controversial operation. – Rappler.com
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