Napeñas dismisses IMT findings, says 'Exodus' legitimate
MANILA, Philippines – Did elite cops violate a standing ceasefire agreement when it entered Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-controlled territory on January 25?
For the police general who commanded the operation, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) did not violate anything. (READ: Int'l Monitoring Team: Mamasapano a 'disastrous firefight')
“Yung sinasabi ng IMT, that is yet to be proven sa talagang investigative body. Pero in fact, ang ginawa namin, it’s a legitimate and lawful operation para kunin ang high value targets,” sacked SAF chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas told reporters during a House of Representatives probe into the bloody police operation on Tuesday, April 7.
(What the International Monitoring Team is saying has yet to be proven by an investigative body. But the fact remains that it was a legitimate and lawful operation to get high-value targets.)
The IMT, which monitors the ongoing peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF, said in its report that although it was a “valid law enforcement operation by the PNP,” the SAF failed to observe established ceasefire protocols in the planning and execution of the operation.
The Malaysian-led team also noted the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) may have violated the ceasefire deal when it entered the cornfields of Mamasapano.
The IMT also recommended that elements from both the PNP and BIAF found to have committed crimes be charged for violating Republic Act 9851.
Napeñas led the SAF when close to 400 of its troopers entered Mamasapano town, Maguindanao on January 25 to neutralize at least 2 high-value targets, including Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
SAF troopers were able to kill Marwan, believed to be behind bombings in Mindanao that claimed the lives of hundreds of people, but they paid a high price.
- FULL TEXT: PNP report on Mamasapano
- FULL TEXT: Draft Senate report on Mamasapano
- FULL TEXT: MILF report on Mamasapano
In what several investigative bodies are pointing out to be a bungled operation plan, SAF troopers encountered fighters from the MILF, its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups.
At least 67 died as a result of the operation, according to the PNP’s Board of Inquiry report – 5 civilians, 18 Moro rebels, and 44 troopers from the elite SAF.
“Oplan Exodus” was highly-secretive, leaving even top PNP and government officials, as well as the military out of the loop.
“Failure of PNP SAF to have prior coordination with AFP, other PNP forces, CCCH (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities) and AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) is a violation by the GPH of Article II of the AGCH (Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities) of 1997,” said the IMT in its report, the 5th to be released in the aftermath of the operation.
The PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI)’s noted in its report that had Napeñas coordinate properly with groups such as the CCCH, he would have known that based on experience, it takes over 6 hours to broker a ceasefire. (READ: ‘Aquino didn’t give Napeñas guidance on peace deal’)
But Napeñas and the SAF argue that based on the Implementing Guidelines of the Joint Communique of May 2012, law-enforcement operations against high-value targets are exempt from the coordination rule.
The IMT conceded in its report that parts of the communique could be read two ways – coordination less than 24 hours prior to give civilians time to evacuate and to prevent hostilities between the government and the MILF, or total exemption.
The operation is the bloodiest in the PNP’s history and is proving to be the worst crisis to hit President Benigno Aquino III’s administration. (READ: Satisfaction with Aquino lowest after Mamasapano – SWS)
Although close to 400 troopers were deployed, only 73 actually were involved in fierce clashes with armed groups in Mamasapano – the 55th and 84th Special Action Companies.
The 84th SAC or the “Seaborne” were the main effort in killing Marwan while the 55th served as a main blocking force.
All save for one trooper from the 55th SAC were killed in Mamasapano, in a clash that the IMT described as an incident that “went from the status of deliberately uncoordinated movements to a disastrous firefight” between the SAF and fighters from the MILF’s 105th base command.
The IMT also noted there was “probable cause to assume” that it was the 55th SAC who fired the first shots against MILF members who were crossing a bamboo bridge in barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano in the wee hours of January 25.
The Malaysian-led team said the 55th SAC’s actions “indicate a full firefight rather than a mere uncoordinated movement,” noting that this was a violation of Article 1 of the AGCH.
But Napeñas, who has been criticized for spearheading a “defective” operation plan, dismissed the IMT’s findings.
“Sana, tignan niyo rin kung sino nag compose ng IMT at kung ano nationality ng targets namin (You should also check to see who makes up the IMT and the nationality of our targets),” he told reporters.
The two-star police general, who was immediately relieved of his post in the days following the clash, opted not to coordinate with the military or the MILF, fearing leaks.
Under the “advice” of now-resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, Napeñas only informed the PNP’s officer-in-charge Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina of the operation only after Marwan was killed.
Keeping the military out of the loop also resulted in another touchy issue: the absence of artillery support when the 55th SAC was already pinned down by the BIAF.
Aquino’s trust and satisfaction ratings have dipped to their lowest following the clash. The President has been criticized for allowing his friend Purisima’s participation despite the latter’s standing preventive suspension order over a graft case.
The clash has also endangered the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the result of negotiations between the government and the MILF. – Rappler.com
WATCH: LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS ON THE MAMASAPANO CLASH
House of Representatives
April 7, 2015: VIDEO
Senate of the Philippines
February 24, 2015: VIDEO