MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – On the day of “Oplan Exodus,” a high-level operation to neutralize two top terrorists in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, President Benigno Aquino III was in close contact with his buddy, suspended police general and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima.
During the Senate’s 4th public hearing on the bloody Mamasapano operation on Monday, February 23, Purisima read aloud the text messages exchanged between himself and the President on January 25.
Both Aquino and Purisima have been heavily criticized for their involvement in the operation. Purisima resigned as PNP chief over a week after the clash.
Their text messages indicate Purisima was the link between the President and the SAF command in the early hours of the clash. (READ: Purisima misled Aquino?)
Based on their text messages, Purisima informed Aquino of the operation at 5:45 am on Sunday, January 25. Purisima said he was then at San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
Upon being told that Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir (alias “Marwan”) was killed but that another target, bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman had escaped, Aquino asked Purisima: “Are we now back to square one?”
The text messages between Purisima and Aquino on January 25 are as follows:
5:45 am text message from Purisima to Aquino:
Sir good morning. For info, SAF elements implemented Oplan against high value targets. As of now, results indicate that Marwan was killed and one SAF trooper wounded. The body of Marwan was left behind but pictures were taken. The troopers are not in withdrawal phase and progress report to follow.
7:36 am text message from Aquino to Purisima:
Why was it left behind? The other two targets?
7:48 am text message from Purisima to Aquino:
Sir accordingly when the nearest target from the time of approach is N1 and when they hit the primary target, the other house where Basit Usman was located and the other elements reacted and fired at the troopers.
There were about 15-20 armed elements. It was about 4:30 am and it was decided that they would pull out after taking pictures and other evidences and they were not able to reach the secondary targets sir.
7:59 am text message from Aquino to Purisima:
If I remember correctly 160 SAF troopers were directly involved in this operation plus provisions for other PNP and AFP units to assist. The terrain is flat and clear as opposed to upland forested or jungle terrain. Why could they not contain and or overwhelm 15 to 20 members of opposing force. Are they still in contact with other targets? If not, and the opposing forces escaped, are we now back to square one? (Editor's note: The Moro rebels who fought with the SAF troops were more than a hundred. Only 73 SAF troopers – members of the 84th Seaborne Company and the 55th Special Action Company – were able to enter the area of engagement)
Between 8:17 and 8:18 am text message from Purisima to Aquino:
They [opposing force] are presently in contact with the reinforcing elements from BIFF. The containment forces are the ones in contact right now. They are now supported by mechanized and artillery support sir.
The local target Basit and his group were the first group that were engaged by main effort group (84th Seaborne Company).
8:41 am text from Aquino to Purisima:
Review your earlier and latest text. They differ as to which was engaged first.
Purisima’s reply to Aquino:
I mean sir: The first target was M1 (Marwan), where they were able to neutralize first. The group of Basit retaliated which was about 100 meters away.
10:16 am text from Aquino to Purisima:
Basit should not get away.
11:38 text from Purisima to Aquino:
Already advised sir. As of the moment, the main effort is withdrawing and according to director IG [Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez] we still have our contract with the [asset] and will hit them again sir.
6:20 pm text from Purisima to Aquino:
Sir the latest report from Maguindanao states that the security elements were engaged by BIFF, not MILF elements suffered heavy casualties they were reportedly overrun. CCCH and International Monitoring Team are in the area retreiving casualties. The main effort [84th Seaborne Company] is still in the process of rendezvous with other SAF and AFP elements.
“Oplan Exodus” is the bloodiest one-day operation to happen in the PNP to date.
At least 65 individuals died, including 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and 44 members of the elite Special Action Force.
The incident forced Aquino to accept the resignation of Purisima, who was serving a suspension order over graft charges when the operation happened.
The clash has put in limbo the peace agreement that the Aquino government signed last year with the MILF.
Some sectors have called for his resignation in what is turning out to be his worst political crisis since he became president in 2010.