Purisima: I did not lead Mamasapano operation

Bea Cupin

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Purisima: I did not lead Mamasapano operation
(UPDATED) Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima refuses to say when was the last time he spoke to President Aquino, invoking 'executive privilege'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima on Friday, February 6, denied claims by a deputy that he was the commander of an ill-fated police operation that claimed the lives of 44 elite cops in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

[Sa] itong usapin na ito…noong panahon na nag-operate mga tropa sa Maguindanao, ako ay suspendido, hindi ako ang nagmando dito,” Purisima said in an exclusive interview with GMA7’s 24 Oras. (When the troops were in Maguindanao, I was suspended. I did not command this.)

Alam ko kung paano nangyayari pero hindi ako nagmamando dahil iyon ang papel ng ground commander,” the resigned PNP chief added. (I know how the operation worked, but I did not command the operation because that is the role of the ground commander.)

Relieved PNP Special Action Force (SAF) commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas earlier said that it was Purisima who supplied the intelligence package that led to the operation in Mamasapano that targetted bomb-makers Zulkifli bin Hir (alias “Marwan”) and Abdul Basit Usman.

Napeñas also said it was Purisima who ordered him to inform Acting PNP chief Deputy Director General Leandro Espina of the operation only after they were already in Mamasapano.

Purisima again denied this: “Sila ang nagplano nito. Hindi natin iniutos kung ano ang gagawin nila. Sila ang may operasyon.” (That’s their plan. I did not give them such orders.)

Troopers from the 55th Special Action Battalion, the blocking force of the operation, were killed by fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

All but one trooper from the 55th battalion survived the carnage while 9 policemen from the elite 84th Seaborne Battalion, the group which targeted Marwan himself, died. 

Operation ‘came at a high cost’ 

On Thursday, February 5, Rappler reported that the President announced to key Cabinet members that he had accepted Purisima’s resignation. But Purisima’s lawyer denied this, saying the general never filed a resignation letter.

Asked who persuaded him to finally quit, Purisima told 24 Oras that he voluntarily resigned but did not say when. This was to allow the President “more room to act,” he said.

Various agencies – the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, both chambers of Congress, the MILF, the justice department, and international bodies – are investigating the Mamasapano incident, one of the worst operations in the PNP’s young history. 

The encounter is threatening to endanger a long-awaited peace deal between the government and the MILF. It has also triggered public anger towards  the President, for his perceived lack of empathy with the surviving families of the slain 44. 

Purisima condoled with the families of the 44, saying that the death of Marwan “came at a high cost.” The 4-star general was also once a member of the SAF. 

Aquino’s role

Purisima also declined to answer anchor Mike Enriquez’s question on when he last saw his friend, President Benigno Aquino III. He said certain issues are covered by “executive privilege,” such as when he last spoke with Aquino.

The President, in an earlier address, said he had consulted with Purisima up until his suspension in early December, but he also admitted that even after Purisima’s suspension, he had asked the police general to “explain the intricacies of what the plan being presented to me was.”

Purisima also said that, contrary to reports, he was not in Zamboanga City on January 25, when the bloody clash happened. Purisima said he was in Nueva Ecija on January 24.

Asked about reports of United States involvement in the operation, Purisima said it’s “speculation,” but hastened to add those were “classified matters.”

The Friday interview was the first time Purisima spoke on the issue. Prior to his resignation, Purisima was serving a 6-month suspension order over a corruption case. 

Purisima has at least 2 more cases pending before the Ombudsman. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.