Top PH cops didn't know details of PNP SAF operation

MANILA, Philippines – Top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) – or the PNP Command Group – were left out of the preparations for a PNP Special Action Force (SAF) operation that targeted a suspected Malaysian terrorist.

The operation, called a “misencounter” by government, resulted in the death of some 44 elite police forces. Twelve were injured while the remaining 336 are all accounted for following a clash between government forces, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Sunday, January 25.

The 392 elite commandos were targeting two “high value targets,” one of them alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan.”

Marwan was reportedly killed during the operation, but government officials have refused to confirm his death.

In a press conference in Camp Crame on Tuesday, January 27, PNP Office-in-Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said there was nothing out of the ordinary with the PNP's planning years in advance the operation against Marwan, but stressed that in those operations, the “concept of preparation” is important.

“In this particular operation, [the preparations] did not reach the command group. Command group meaning me and [the Chief Directorial Staff Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo] because you need to look into the details here,” added Espina.

The Command Group is composed of the PNP’s “Top 4” – the PNP chief, the Deputy Director for Administration, the Deputy Director for Operations, and the Chief Directorial Staff.

PNP chief Director General is currently serving a preventive suspension order while the Deputy Director for Administration role is vacant, following the retirement of Deputy Director General Felipe Roxas.

The MILF is claiming the PNP SAF did not coordinate the operation with them, as provided by its long-standing ceasefire agreement with the government. The government, meanwhile, is saying that coordination was done at the "tactical level." 

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II announced that PNP SAF commander, Police Director Getulio Napeñas Jr has been administratively relieved pending an investigation by a “Board of Inquiry.”

The board will be headed by top police generals including Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) Western Mindanao head Chief Superintendent Edgardo Ingking, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong, and Directorate for Research and Development head Chief Superintendent Catalino Rodriguez Jr, who used to be Northern Mindanao region police chief.

Citing preliminary reports, Roxas said members of the BIFF attacked SAF commandos, after which government forces had a “misencounter” with the MILF because they were avoiding BIFF territory.

Mamasapano town, where the “misencounter” took place, is a known bailiwick of the MILF.

The Philippine government and the MILF are in the final stages of a peace deal involving the proposed creation of a new autonomous entity in Muslim Mindanao to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The BIFF had split from the MILF because they opposed the peace talks.

Espina said the board would determine why the PNP’s top brass weren’t in the loop during the operation.

Roxas added that the board would also determine what preparations and coordination the PNP took prior to the bloody encounter in Mamasapano. – Rappler.com