Faulty grenades, US in Mamasapano? Wait for probe – PNP

Bea Cupin

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Faulty grenades, US in Mamasapano? Wait for probe – PNP

Jeoffrey Maitem

The PNP OIC urges the public to wait for the Board of Inquiry report as the police force continues to audit and check equipment issued to its elite commandos



MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) officials on Monday, February 16, downplayed media reports saying that alleged grenades issued to Special Action Force troopers during an ill-fated police operation “were defective and apparently did not explode.”

Initially nag-inquire na rin kami. Tignan muna natin kasi may cyclic rate yan eh. Yung parang granada, propelled by a riffle, that’s what you call a M203. Tignan natin kung full na ba ang cycle for it to be armed,” PNP OIC Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina told reporters at the sidelines of the PNP’s 24th anniversary at Camp Bagong Diwa

(We have started checking those reports. Let’s hold our conclusions because those have cyclic rates. It’s a grenade that’s propelled by a riffle, that’s what you call M203. Let’s see if it had already reached its full cycle for it to be armed.) 

Citing a sworn statement by SAF intelligence officer Superintendent Raymund Train, the Philippine Star said the M203 ammunition “were duds.”

Train led the SAF’s 84th Seaborne Company, the PNP SAF’s striking force in an operation to neutralize bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan.”

Nine of the 36 men from his company died during a botched extraction attempt when they encountered fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

All except one trooper, meanwhile, from the 36 members of the 55th Special Action Company, the operation’s primary blocking force, died during the encounter.

Train, according to PhilStar, said his team ran out of ammunition, contrary to earlier claims by Espina. During a Senate hearing, Espina said troopers from the 84th had more than enough ammunition – enough to last them for another day.

It was the 55th SAC, he said, that ran out of bullets.

The 84th Seaborne Company was only extracted by personnel from the military at around 8:30 pm, almost 16 hours after they had killed Marwan.

But Espina told reporters he had already directed the PNP’s Director for Logistics, Police Director Juanito Vaño, Jr. to check the report “because it was already raised before.”

National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Director Carmelo Valmoria, former commander of the SAF, also said it would be best to wait for the PNP Board of Inquiry’s probe but added that based on his own experience, the M203s issued to the SAF were fully functional.

“The 84th and 55th SAF companies used those same grenade launchers during the Zamboanga siege in 2013. It worked when they used it before. Reports of it not functioning is news to me,” Valmoria told reporters in a chance interview.

“The SAF is issued the best equipment among the entire PNP because they’re involved in counter-terrorism,” added the police general, who supervised the SAF during the Zamboanga siege and Typhoon Yolanda 2013.

In a text message to Rappler, Vaño said they were still “finalizing the inventory of the caliber 40 mm M203s.” Vaño also leads a team doing the inventory of equipment issued to the 84th and 55th SAF companies, some of which found their way into MILF and BIFF hands.

The MILF had earlier promised they would return all firearms and personal belongings to the PNP.

US involvement?

The January 25 Mamasapano operation, called “Oplan Exodus,” was a top-secret operation that was kept from both the military and the MILF, which the government signed a peace deal with in 2014. 

It is also one of the bloodiest one-day operation in PNP history.

Espina could neither confirm nor deny reports that it was the US that spearheaded “Oplan Exodus” from “start to finish,” as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“I really don’t know anything about it. The Board of Inquiry is totally independent of me. Let’s wait for them to finish their investigation. In about one or two weeks’ time, they should be ready with their findings,” he added.

The PNP had previously denied the US playing a role in the operation, despite persistent news reports alleging otherwise.

Relieved PNP SAF commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas earlier told legislators that US involvement was limited to post-operation medical assistance.

Drones were allegedly used to monitor the operation, a claim Napeñas denied. Mamasapano locals, however, including the town mayor, reported seeing aircraft hovering around the town in the days leading up to the operation. – 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.