Miriam: SAF operation 'failure' from the start

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago refuses to call the death of 44 elite police an encounter. On Thursday, February 12, she insisted it was a massacre.  

“The men literally walked into a trap! Because the escape routes were fully covered by the gunfire of the enemy. That’s why we call this a massacre, not an encounter,” a livid Santiago said during the Senate’s 3rd hearing on a bloody police operation that killed bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan” but also ended in the death of 44 young Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) troopers. 

Referring to the open corn fields of Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, Santiago said the troopers of the SAF’s 55th and 84th companies were “sitting ducks.” 

Pumasok sila sa quadrangle na ito, wala silang cover, from the air or the sea. Diyan lang sila at kulang pa sila ng bala. Kaya noong naubos bala nila, all the MILF and BIFF did was to go there and shoot them individually one by one,” she said, referring to a viral video that was supposedly taken during the Mamasapano encounter. 

(They entered this quadrangle without cover from the air or the sea. They were were and they ran out of bullets. So when the bullets ran out, all the MILF and BIFF did was to go there and shoot them individually one by one.)

Santiago berated relieved PNP SAF commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas for what she called an operation that was a “failure” from the very beginning.  

The timing was very bad. The Muslims were already awake before 5 am. Kaya kayo nahuli eh kasi gising na silang lahat (That’s why you were caught). Tapos dahil na putukan na, narinig ng MILF base commander at tumakbo sila doon. Kaya nangyari, na-trap sila (And because the firefight started, the MILF base commander heard it and ran there.) And in a cornfield! At wala namang (There was no) prior strategy on how to best use the area so that hindi ma-trap. As it was, there were like rats,” she added. 

Napeñas said he disagreed, insisting it was not a failure but "withdrawal."

Again referring to the video that went viral, Santiago said if proven to be authentic, the fighters in the video violated the Geneva conventions of war. 

Santiago pressed Napeñas to explain why he kept the PNP OIC, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, out of the loop. In contrast, Napeñas was talking to suspended Director General Alan Purisima, who has since resigned as PNP chief. 

The police general explained the authority to push for the operation was his, since it had already been approved previously by Purisima prior to his suspension and even the President himself.  

“That is not acceptable. For years mong hinahabol-habol itong si Marwan at Usman (You’ve been chasing for them for over 4 years)!” said Santiago. 

For Santiago, the buck did not stop with Napeñas. “The problem with you, sir, you’re assuming full responsibility of the operation. I doubt very much your statement that you were in full and sole control of the operation. That’s why don’t take my statement that it’s your fault. You should not be blamed for the whole fiasco,” she said, explaining she would later prove that other, higher-ranking officials, were to blame. 

She declared: "This is a failure! The fact is 44 Filipinos are dead! Who were the people pulling the strings behind you?"

The hearing is ongoing as of posting. – Rappler.com