Mamasapano: Breakdown of trust, leadership

MANILA, Philippines – After 5 public hearings and 5 closed-door meetings, the Senate concluded its emotionally- and politically-charged investigation into the Mamasapano clash. 

Senate public order committee chairperson Grace Poe said the inquiry revealed gaps in both the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership and the government’s peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

She said these loopholes unraveled in the encounter that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers, 18 MILF members, and 3 civilians on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The policemen were on a mission to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

“It appears that the operation was poorly planned from the start. To make matters worse, there was an undeniable breakdown of both leadership and command and control in the PNP,” Poe said on Tuesday, February 24.

Poe also hinted that there is a need to revisit the government’s deal with the MILF.

“A peace agreement that allows the slaughter of our law enforcers because they did not coordinate their operation with the other party is certainly flawed. It is not an excuse for the commission of a crime,” she said.

Poe made the remarks as her committee is about to draft its report, including recommendations for administrative and criminal charges, and legislative remedies. The senator provided a preview of her findings in the closing statement she made in the Tuesday hearing.

Below is the full text of her statement: 

These hearings have necessarily focused on the undeniable lapses in the conduct of operations leading to 44 deaths of the PNP-SAF. It appears that the operation was poorly planned from the start. 

To make matters worse, there was an undeniable breakdown of both leadership and command and control in the PNP. Information about Operation Exodus was deliberately withheld from the Secretary of [the] Interior and Local Government and the officer-in-charge of the PNP.

Ito po ay malinaw. Umpisa pa lang, 'yun na ang ating pinag-usapan. (This is clear. From the start we have been discussing this.) The PNP did not coordinate with nearby units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines until both the 84th and the 55th special action companies were already heavily engaged in firefights with hostile forces. ‘Yun din po malinaw. (That is also clear.) 

In the joint committee report that we are preparing, the committees will propose legislative actions necessary to avoid repetition of this incident in the future. We will be making recommendations with respect to the proposed PNP Modernization Program which is pending before Congress. 

Hindi lang po paghahanap ng kasalanan kundi para rin po palakasin ang ating mga pulis na nakita naman natin na may kagitingin na pinakita dito at patuloy na nagpapakita ng kagitingan, kaya lang po minsan, meron din sa hanay nila nagkakamali kaya hindi nila nagagawa ng tama ang kanilang trabaho. 

(This investigation is not just about faultfinding but also to strengthen our police force which we saw showed valor, and continues to show valor but sometimes, some from their ranks also make mistakes in their work.)

We should not forget that the majority of SAF 44 lost their lives at the hands of firefighters apparently belonging also to the MILF and our so-called partner in the ongoing peace process. Many of our SAF 44 were shot at close range as they lay injured at the now infamous corn fields in Mamasapano. 

They were stripped of their weapons, equipment, uniform and even their personal belongings. 

They were treated with ignominy with videos of their corpses posted on the Internet. Hence, of equal, if not greater importance to our nation is the impact of the Mamasapano incident on the ongoing peace process, which the government is undertaking with the MILF.

We are one in the search for a lasting peace in Mindanao. Every effort must be exerted to achieve this goal. However, there can be no peace without justice. A peace agreement that allows the slaughter of our law enforcers because they did not coordinate their operation with the other party is certainly flawed. It is not an excuse for the commission of a crime.

For this joint representation, the joint committee report will not be credible or acceptable to our people unless we examine the Mamasapano incident in the context of the ongoing peace process with the MILF. 

The efforts of the government to arrive at a just, sustainable and lasting peace in Mindanao while ensuring the socio-economic, political and cultural equity must not be at the expense of our sovereignty and national integrity. 

The laws of our Republic must be enforceable and enforced within our territorial boundaries without exception.

Our way forward as a nation can be summarized in three words. Our aspirations of the truth, katotohanan, justice, katarungan, and kapayapaan, peace.

Katarungan (justice), as earlier stated, the joint committee report will contain findings on the different culpabilities of government officials and personalities who may be held liable for these tragedy.  

Kapayapaan (peace), it has long been our dream to have peace in Mindanao. It has been said that peace can only be achieved through compromise and mutual concessions. 

Before our government compromises with and grants concession to the MILF, we must be sure that the peace that which we attain is both permanent and all encompassing. Peace must be reached without compromising our sovereignty or the territorial integrity of our country. The peace that we achieve must be in full accord with the Constitution. 

The events in Mamasapano on January 25, 2015, after we have signed peace agreements with the MILF shows that the peace brought about by the peace agreement is not permanent, but is fleeting and temporary. 

All that we need to break the peace was a police, law enforcement operation, near territory controlled by the MILF. The peace agreement with the MILF is not all encompassing as again shown by the Mamasapano incident.

We must negotiate in a position of strength. Sa kalahatan ng ating mga testimonya, nagtuturo sa kung ano ang pinakamalaking naging problema sa operasyon kay Marwan, ang malinaw po ay ang pagkawala rin ng tiwala natin sa isa’t isa. Sa ngayon po, malaki na ang naibuwis natin upang makamit ang kapayapaan, hindi lang po sa pulis at sa military, pati na rin po sa ating mga kapatid sa Mindanao.

(In the course of our hearings, in the attempt to find the biggest problem in the operation against Marwan, what is clear is that our trust in one another is lost. Now, we have sacrificed much to achieve peace, not just the police and the military, but also our brothers and sisters in Mindanao.)

Aatras pa ba tayo ngayon? Ngunit ang pagsulong ng kapayapaan ay hindi nangangahulugan na pikit-mata nating ibibigay ng walang hustisya at patas na kasunduan ang lahat ng hinihingi.

(Will we step back now? But pursuing peace does not mean we blindly give all that is asked for without justice and a fair agreement.)

Utang natin sa naulila ang hustisya sa pagkamatay ng kanilang ama, kapatid o anak, pero huwag nating kalimutan na obligasyon ng bawat henerasyon na itaguyod ang kapayapaan. Sinabi nga, hindi tayo ang nag mamay-ari ng kinabukasan kundi ang ating mga anak.

(We owe justice to those who lost their father, sibling or child, but let us also not forget that it is the obligation of every generation to pursue peace. As the saying goes, the future belongs not to us but to our children.)

And with this, be assured that when we put together the committee report, we will do our utmost to be fair and to include all information that was submitted to us. It is a challenge, a daunting one, just for the sheer volume of information that we have to go through. 

But our goal is to be fair and our goal is to help bring about justice and so, once again I would like to thank our resource persons for your presence in all our hearings. – Rappler.com