MANILA, Philippines – “We have to move forward and not let the immediate past drag us in going towards the future.”
Philippine National Police (PNP) OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina on Thursday, February 5, made the statement as he assured the public that all was well in the national police force, despite a bloody encounter in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, that left 44 elite cops dead.
Speaking to the media after a Command Conference in Camp Crame, Espina admitted it was “hard to move forward” after the incident but added that “it is our job to render service to the public despite all odds.”
Present during the Command Conference were regional chiefs from all over the Philippines, as well as the chiefs of the PNP’s National Support Units.
The only two in the PNP’s Command Group – Espina and Chief of Director Staff Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr – led the conference.
Espina’s words of assurance, as well as the Command Conference, came after back-to-back press conferences by Armed Forces Chief General Gregorio Catapang, sacked PNP Special Action Force commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas, and Espina himself.
The AFP has been firm in its stance that it was willing to send in reinforcements to help beleaguered SAF troopers during the January 25 siege, but that it could not go in because the police were unable to give exact grid coordinates.
Napeñas, in a Wednesday press conference, refuted the AFP’s claims. Documentary evidence would prove that the PNP had given the AFP the proper coordinates to help the SAF troopers, he said.
Napeñas, however, had also admitted that he only informed the military through Espina, after the troopers had entered the territory and were already engaged in a firefight with rebel forces.
PNP-AFP relationship 'strong'
Espina downplayed what many are criticizing as finger-pointing between the country’s military and police force.
“We assure everybody that we are all okay at the PNP. [Our] relationship with the AFP remains strong,” said Espina.
The PNP OIC, responding to a question from reporters, denied the Command Conference was a “loyalty check” among its top generals, saying it's not necessary as they are "all loyal."
Espina also denied any problems in the PNP's heirarchy.
"There is no division. Yun lang nga, namatayan kami. Medyo nalulungkot kami ng husto doon (But we lost our men. We are very saddened over that) but there’s no division in the PNP," he told reports.
The PNP is still investigating the Mamasapano encounter for any lapses committed by police that led to the death of 44.
Various news reports and Rappler sources have indicated that it was suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima who led the Mamasapano operation.
Espina and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II only found out about the operation after the troopers were already in the area.
Meanwhile, Espina asked the public and the media to “avoid speculation without evidence” pending the results of the Board of Inquiry probe. – Rappler.com