MANILA, Philippines – Resigned police chief Alan Purisima insists he only gave “advice,” not orders, on the Mamasapano mission. To the operational commander, however, Purisima's words were clearly commands.
Upon questioning from Senate President Franklin Drilon, relieved Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas admitted that the information he got from Purisima during the mission to arrest top terrorists on January 25 were orders. Purisima even approved the date of the mission.
In the 4th Senate hearing on the incident on Monday, February 23, Napeñas initially described the text messages he received from Purisima as “information,” but Drilon pressed him to be more categorical.
Napeñas said: “May limitation sa aking sarili sa pag-coordinate sa higher authority. Iba po 'pag galing sa baba, at galing sa itaas.” (There is a limitation on my part in coordinating with higher authority. It’s different when instructions come from people under you, and those from above you.)
Drilon asked: “Kung galing sa itaas, pababa, 'di ba order iyon sa police at military?” (If the instructions come from above, isn’t that an order in the police and military?)
Napeñas replied: “Ganoon na nga iyon siguro.” (Yes, I think it is that way.)
The Senate President said he was “very bothered” by the exchange of text messages between Purisima and Napeñas on January 13 where the SAF commander consulted the resigned police chief about the decision to conduct the mission sometime between January 23 and 26.
Napeñas explained that this was the second option for the operation’s schedule because before these dates, the troopers were deployed to Tacloban for the visit of Pope Francis.
Drilon read Purisima’s reply to Napeñas’ SMS: “'Okay na. Go for secondary schedule.' Very clear, while he was under suspension.”
Napeñas said: “Yes, sir.”
Drilon prompted Napeñas to make the admission as Purisima again tried to evade responsibility for telling the SAF commander not to inform Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr, Philippine National Police (PNP) Officer in Charge Leonardo Espina, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II of the operation beforehand.
In the initial Senate hearings two weeks ago, Purisima admitted he told Napeñas to tell Espina and Roxas about the operation “time on target” or during the actual mission, while he promised to be the one to “take care” of his military batchmate Catapang. Purisima justified his words as mere “advice,” not an order.
Purisima: Inform, not coordinate
This time, Purisima tried to make a distinction between “informing” Catapang on the day itself and “coordinating” with the military chief beforehand.
Purisima said, “Information is different from coordination. I volunteered to inform General Catapang.”
Drilon and Senator Teofisto Guingona III asked Purisima and Napeñas who should have done prior coordination with the AFP and PNP top brass.
Purisima said, “It was not my job to coordinate because I was already suspended. That’s the job of the ground commander.”
Yet Napeñas said a “higher authority” should have taken care of coordination.
“At that time, General Purisima was the higher authority. I rendered reports to him because when we discussed this on January 9 upstairs, he was part of that meeting,” Napeñas said.
The former SAF chief was referring to a January 9 meeting with Aquino and Purisima at the Bahay Pangarap residence of the President in Malacañang. A close friend and former bodyguard of Aquino, Purisima was part of the “mission update” meeting even while he was suspended over corruption charges.
Military and security officers blamed the PNP’s lack of coordination as a factor behind the delayed reinforcement sent to the SAF troopers, likely contributing to the heavy death toll in the operation that caused the biggest loss of forces for the Philippine government in one day.
The Senate is investigating the clash that killed 44 elite cops, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 3 civilians.
The operation triggered the worst security crisis to hit the Aquino administration, and threatens to derail the peace process with the MILF after 17 years of talks. – Rappler.com