MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – He might have been misinformed about the real situation on the ground when 44 elite cops died during a police operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, but President Benigno Aquino III committed lapses in judgment during the planning of the high-stakes operation.
Based on the executive summary of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Board of Inquiry (BOI) report on the bloody Mamasapano incident, the President did the following:
Give “the go-signal and allowed the execution of Oplan Exodus after the concept of operations was presented to him by Director of Special Action Force (SAF) Police Director Getulio Napeñas.”
“Allowed the participation of the suspended Chief Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman,” and “…bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command.”
The BOI, a fact-finding body, did not include in its report recommendations for possible administrative and criminal charges against key personalities involved in the bloody police operation. (Read the full report here)
“Oplan Exodus” is a January 25 SAF-led operation to neutralize bomb makers and terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Abdul Basit Usman. While the SAF troopers got Marwan, Usman was able to escape.
During their attempted exit, troopers from the 84th and 55th Special Action Companies (SAC) encountered fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups. At least 67 people died, including 5 civilians, 18 MILF fighters, and 44 SAF troopers.
In a press conference on Friday, March 13, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Aquino “has no liability” for the Mamasapano operation. Roxas’ statements seem to contradict the BOI report.
The Interior chief, who is also president-on-leave of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), told reporters that Aquino “recognized” that his friend, former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima was suspended.
“The President knew this and that’s why he told [sacked PNP SAF commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas] to tell [PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonard Espina], precisely to correct the anomaly that there was someone suspended in the middle. But they did not follow the President’s orders,” said Roxas.
Aquino ordered this on January 9, during a mission briefing at Bahay Pangarap with Purisima, Napeñas, and Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez from the PNP Intelligence Group.
But the BOI report said although Aquino “exercised his prerogative to deal directly with Napeñas instead of [Espina],” the mere act of not bringing in Espina to the mission briefing itself was violation on the President’s part.
“While the President has the prerogative to deal directly with any of his subordinates, the act of dealing with Napeñas instead of OIC-PNP Espina bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command. Under the Manual for PNP Fundamental Doctrine, the Chain of Command runs upward and downward. Such Manual requires the commander to discharge his responsibilities through a Chain of Command,” said the BOI report.
Roxas defended Aquino, and said it was not the President’s job to make sure his orders were followed. The Interior chief said Aquino worked with Purisima but only until the preventive suspension order, which came early December. Roxas explained that is why Aquino ordered Napeñas and Purisima to inform Espina.
Aquino himself said he ought not to be faulted for what happened, putting the blame squarely on Napeñas. (READ: Napeñas 'tricked me,' says Aquino)
The presence of Purisima during the mission briefing, however, was also a violation in itself, the BOI noted. (READ: Aquino's contradictions)
Approval of ‘defective’ mission
Text messages between the President and Purisima would later show Aquino was privy to the details of “Oplan Exodus,” including the number of SAF troopers deployed for the operation.
The BOI report noted the mission planing for the high-stakes operation was “defective” because of:
Troopers also expected artillery support to come from the military, which didn't happen.
During the meeting, Aquino told the police generals to coordinate with the AFP. But Purisima, Napeñas, and Mendez all expressed opposition to this suggestion. Napeñas later told the President the AFP was “compromised.”
Aquino “sat in silence” and later told the police officials to “beef up the operatives who will be deployed for the high-profile and dangerous mission,” according to the BOI report.
The President did not say anything else after the exchange.
Napeñas and Mendez left the room, leaving Purisima to confer with Aquino.
It was after this that Purisima instructed Napeñas to inform Espina and Roxas once SAF troopers had entered Mamasapano. The suspended police general also said he would “take care of” AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang, Jr.
The former SAF director said he assumed this meant Purisima would take care of coordination with the military.
The BOI is headed by Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The Mamasapano tragedy is the worst crisis to hit the Aquino administration. It has triggered protests and calls for his resignation.
A former ally, Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, resigned his post to protest Aquino's "cover-up of his responsibility" over the Mamasapano carnage. – Rappler.com
Related stories on the BOI report: