Sacked SAF chief: Military knew cops' location in Mamasapano

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2) – Police Director Getulio Napeñas Jr, suspended as commander of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) belied the claim of the military that they were not informed of the exact location of the cops who needed reinforcement in a clash with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

In a brief press conference on Wednesday, February 4, Napeñas said evidence submitted to the Board of Inquiry (BOI) will show that Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) was provided the grid coordinates for the location of the elite cops, 44 of whom later died in the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters on January 25.

"May sinasabi sila na hindi namin alam 'yung location namin pero makikita doon asa resulta nung Board of Inquiry yung mga grid coordinates na ipino-forward ko kay General Espina na siyang ipino-forward niya kay General Guerrero," Napeñas said, reffering to PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and the chief of the military's Wesmincom.

(They're saying we did not know the location of our men but we will see in the results of the Board of Inquiry the grid coordinates that I forwarded to General Espina and which he forwarded to General Guerrero.)

Napeñas said he also forwarded the grid coordinates to Colonel Gener Del Rosario, commander of the Mechanized Brigade, who was supposedly joined by SAF deputy commander Taliño in the military headquarters.

 

Espina echoed Napeñas in a separate press conference. "I was communicating directly with General Guerrero on the ground with all the grid coordinates. Time is of the essence. Napapabakbak po ang ating mga tao doon sa Mamasapano," Espina said.

Coordinates are old?

In earlier interviews, military officers admitted to Rappler that the SAF asked the AFP for artillery support but the SAF supposedly failed to provide the grid coordinates of their men inside Mamasapano. 

An officer said then: “May procedure how to call for fire support. Sir, I’m in these grid coordinates. From my position, ito yung anggulo at ganito ang layo. Hindi puwedeng tsambahan. Mababagsakan ang bahay ng MILF,” explained another officer. (There are procedures for fire support. You have to state the coordinates, the angle. You cannot leave this to chance. Otherwise you might end up hitting the house of an MILF member.)

Ask about the revelation of Napeñas on Wednesday, the same military officer explained that what they needed was the real time grid coordinates. It cannot be hours old considering that it was a running gun battle. They also needed the location of the enemy and the corresponding angles and distances. 

As soldiers are hurting in the blame game, another military officer quipped: "If they knew their locations of colleagues, why didn't they reinforce them themselves? They had 300 standby forces. What were they doing?"

Asked about this, Napeñas said: "Maraming attempt. Nadinig ko sa radio na yung battalion commander din mismo na nag-uutos. Mai-interview ninyo eventually o malalaman natin doon sa Board of Inquiry ang  kasagutan na iyan na 'yung battalion commander mismo na si Police Superintendent Henrich Mangaldan na siya mismo nadoon mismo sa ground during that time," he said. 

Napeñas and Espina held a presser after Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr presented to the media a timeline of the Mamasapano clash. He explained that the lack of reliable grid coordinates barred the troops from immediately reinforcing the cops.

Request for artillery support

Citing the primacy of the peace talks, Catapang said military troops have been on site as early as 9:25 am on January 25, but their role was only to "extract" the elite cops from the encounter area and not to join the fighting.

What the military could have provided, however, was artillery support if there was reliable grid coordinates.

Napeñas, however, clarified, "It is not my words against the words of AFP Chief General Catapang."

Napeñas said the SAF did not coordinate with the military because of the sensitivity of the operation. He stressed the importance of getting Jemaah Islamiyah top terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir or "Marwan," a bombmaker who had been training Filipino terrorists. He also noted the series of bomb explosions that has hit central Mindanao.

Napeñas said he is confident it was Marwan – the target of several SAF operations that were botched in the past – whom SAF troopers got in Pidsandawan. He vowed to resign if DNA tests will show it was not Marwan whom SAF troopers killed.  Rappler.com