Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Let impartial body probe massacre

READERS’ REACT: to my past two columns on the Mamasapano massacre:
Horge Ramos, Caloocan City: “If, as President Noynoy Aquino said, he regularly was briefed on the police commando operation, then he knows who planned it. The Secretaries of Interior and Defense, the PNP (acting) and AFP chiefs weren’t in on the operation, but P-Noy was. Doesn’t that make him, as highest official involved, the most responsible for it? He apparently does not trust the four law and security officials. So why does he keep them? Suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima reportedly was involved in the operation. To what extent; did he – and P-Noy – violate the Ombudsman’s terms of suspension? P-Noy and commando chief Getulio Napeñas repeatedly said that to inform the Moro Islamic Liberation Front about the plan to get the terrorists would ruin it; meaning they didn’t trust them. So why talk peace with them at all? Napeñas’ breach of the command chain led to the slaughter of his men. Is he legally liable?”
A retired general: “Napeñas seems to have assembled trainee, not full commandos. Very faulty planning of extraction: his men ran out of ammo within hours; no request for military land backup and air cover.”
On the massacre’s effects on the ceasefire with the MILF and the Bangsamoro Basic Law pending in Congress:
 Arnel L.G.: “To add to your bull’s-eye questions: If the BBL passes, what’s the assurance that the expanded Muslim autonomous region does not become a haven of international terrorists? Will lawmen still find them if barred from operating within the Bangsamoro? Can we rely on the Bangsamoro police to arrest them? Will the Bangsamoro rulers turn over the money launderers, drug lords, kidnappers for ransom, and gun runners?”
Edwin Fajardo: “Peace with Islamist separatists is impossible. When the government signed a peace pact with the Moro National Liberation Front, an MNLF faction disagreed and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Now that there’s a separate pact with the MILF emerges yet a new faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.”
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The MILF is to investigate its massacre of 44 police commandos. Most Filipinos are unlikely to believe the results.
 The PNP’s own fact-finding could suffer similar incredibility. Despite the probers’ skills, built-in limitations cast doubts, like:
• Reports are that P-Noy and suspended PNP Dr. Gen. Purisima directly were involved in planning the botched operation. Can the probers – Dir. Edgardo Ingking, Dir. Benjamin Magalong, and Chief Supt. Catalino Rodriguez Jr. – pointedly question them? Purisima, who will reassume office in four months and stay for another five, can decide the future of their careers. More so CinC Aquino, till June 2016.
• Interior Sec. Mar Roxas and PNP acting chief Leonardo Espina belittled the incident as a “mis-encounter.” Again, can the three probers deviate from such terminology and pursue other leads that could mar the Aquino administration’s all-out peace with the separatists?
• Ingking and Magalong come from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982; Rodriguez, from Class ‘81. Seniority and mistah (classmate) loyalty are ingrained in PMA grads. Purisima and Espina are from Class ‘81; Dir. Getulio Napeñas of the decimated Special Action Force, Class ‘82. Will generals denigrate classmates and upperclassmen with whom they will consort till way past retirement? Compounding things is the reported involvement of three recently retired generals of the PNP and AFP in the planning.
• The SAF is criticized for not coordinating with the military, much more other PNP units, before the operation. That puts Ingking in an awkward position as fact-finder. For, he is with the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations, directly in charge of west Mindanao – covering central Maguindanao where the battle ensued, General Santos City from where the commandos jumped off, to Zamboanga City far west where P-Noy was the whole of the previous day of the battle.
• Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin and AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang were not in on the plan. Meanwhile, the SAF reportedly coordinated only at the last minute with Army units around the scene. These are the 45th Infantry Battalion right in Mamasapano, 601st Infantry Brigade in Awang town, and 1st Mechanized Brigade in Sharif Aguak seven kilometers away, all under the 6th Infantry Division. Other reports state that the Army did not help out because untold of the exact location of friendly and enemy forces. Yet they could have intervened. Under the government-MILF ceasefire are local AHJAGs (Ad-Hoc Joint Action Groups) consisting of military and MILF commanders who exchange mobile numbers. Their job is to immediately settle by phone ceasefire breaches. If all else fail, the Army member can warn his MILF counterpart with artillery fire to desist or else. No such thing happened. The PNP fact-finding has no authority to step into the Army’s turf to probe such lapse.
• Aside from the SAF’s 44 and MILF’s nine dead, 20 other bodies were recovered by the rebels and ceasefire civilian monitors. Five, including a pre-teen girl and boy, were confirmed residents around the fire zone. Among the rest could have been the SAF raiders’ local scouts. Would the fact-finding dwell on these “collateral damage”?
• Murmurs persist about the involvement of U.S. forces. It supposedly was not just to help airlift wounded and slain commandos, but to get Malaysian terror bomber Zulkifli “Marwan” bin Hir and Filipino henchman Basit Usman. Washington has posted $5 million and $2 million rewards for their capture. Would the PNP probers delve into that angle, and potentially mar both the MILF peace pact and the Visiting Forces Agreement?
If left unanswered, such questions would be stumbling blocks to rebuilding confidence between the protagonists. Peace will again be elusive. Better to form an independent probe body of eminent citizens who can get all parties, including the MILF, to participate.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

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