Probers visit Mamasapano encounter site

Bea Cupin

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Probers visit Mamasapano encounter site
The PNP's Board of Inquiry is in Mamasapano as it wraps up its investigation of the January 25 carnage

MAMASAPANO, Philippines – Flags were still at half mast here on Tuesday, February 24, when police investigators from Manila visited the site of a bloody police operation that killed Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and 65 others, including 44 elite policemen.

The PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI), formed to investigate the operation, visited Mamasapano along with town mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan and local policemen.

Inside Barangay Tukanalipao, where the police Special Action Force (SAF) lost 35 of its commandos, residents flocked to see today’s visitors as they made their way around the sites where SAF troopers exchanged gunfire with fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Residents said this has been the daily grind since 392 SAF troopers entered Mamasapano in the wee hours of the morning almost a month ago – on January 25. (READ: The mourners of Mamasapano)

PNP officials in Mamasapano are led by BOI head Police Director Bejamin Magalong, Police Director Catalino Rodriguez, and Chief Superintendent John Sosito. BOI Operational Audit Team members Senior Superintendent Robert Po, Senior Superintendent Hawthorne Binag, Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., and Chief Inspector David Joy Duarte were also in Mamasapano.

During the botched extrication plan, 73 SAF troopers were trapped in a daylong gunfight with Moro rebels, who said the attack should have been coordinated with them on the basis of a ceasefire agreement signed by the Aquino government and the MILF.

Three civilians, 18 MILF members and 44 SAF troopers were slain during skirmishes in barangays Tukanalipao, Pidsandawan, and Pimbalkan.

Magalong had earlier said they were about 70% finished with the investigation. The board has since received the testimonies of resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima, PNP OIC Deputy Dir Gen Leonardo Espina, and AFP chief Gen Gregorio Catapang, Jr.

The board wants to submit its report by end of the month. The MILF held its separate investigation, and sources said the rebel movement is ready to submit its report to the government peace panel. –

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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.