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Friday, February 6, 2015

Who had operational control of the SAF, Mr. President?



ON 4 December 2015, the Ombudsman ruled the preventive suspension for six months of PNP Chief Alan Purisima for six months. Per news accounts dated December 13, 2014, Purisima complied with the order of the Ombudsman “after President Benigno Aquino III asked him to do so.”
When reporters asked about Purisima’s continued stay at the official residence of the PNP chief and a possible conflict with PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Aquino said: “No, [Purisima] is not supposed to be leading.”
On whether Espina was now the one in charge, DILG’s Sec. Mar Roxas was quoted as saying, “we gave that guidance in the leadership meeting na there ought not to be, dapat walang interruption, pagdadalawang-isip, pagdududa-duda sa pagpapatupad ng mga orders mula sa national headquarters.”
Funny, even the pnp.gov.ph still had Purisima’s PNP’s New Year’s Call dated January 8, 2014. Oh well, he was just suspended not terminated, right?
All these are telltale signs of how the chain of command is in the PNP. Just like during the time of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, it now appears that the DILG head has no operational control over the PNP as mandated by Republic Act No. 6975, as amended by RA 8551 or the PNP Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 and further amended by RA 9708. What gives, Secretary Roxas?
These three laws redefined the role of the PNP in relation to counterinsurgency functions, “The Department of the Interior and Local Government shall be relieved of the primary responsibility on matters involving the suppression of insurgency and other serious threats to national security. The Philippine National Police shall, through information gathering and performance of its ordinary police functions, support the Armed Forces of the Philippines on matters involving suppression of insurgency, except in cases where the President shall call on the PNP to support the AFP in combat operations. In times of national emergency, the PNP, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology shall, upon the direction of the President, assist the armed forces in meeting the national emergency” (Section 3, R.A. 8551).
Why is the President so interested with the PNP that on two occasions, he has chosen to set aside his alter ego and directly get involved with operations? Why is the President so blinded with Purisima from the Luneta fiasco to the Fallen 44?
The President said in his address to the nation that the SAF was in Mamasapano to serve warrants of arrest (“ang kanilang misyon, ipatupad ang mga outstanding warrants of arrest sa dalawang notorious na teroristang matagal nang pinaghahanap ng mga awtoridad: Sina Abdulbasit Usman at Zulkipli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan”). The PNP National Police Manual (PNPM-DO-DS-3-1) provides for the serving of warrants under Section 5 but then again, Mamasapano was a unique situation.
Mamasapano was unique because PNP had two operational codes: Oplan Wolverine per SAF Chief Getulio Napanes and Oplan Exodus per SAF OIC Noli Talino. The Americans were involved but the actual involvement has not been made public. It was designed and planned by a suspended PNP chief bypassing the DILG secretary and the PNP OIC and reporting directly to the president (per the debriefing of Napanes). The suspended PNP chief held on to the “actionable intelligence” not even putting in the loop elements of the AFP on the ground. It tapped the SAF, the elite force of the PNP, and SAF had 400 of their men leading the dawn offensive. It appears that there were \no contingency plans. There were peace protocols that both the Philippine government and the MILF should observe but these were set aside. The Secretary of National Defense was conveniently left out. It was an operation financed outside of the DILG family. The President was in Zamboanga City when the SAF troops made the jump off.
Clearly, Mamasapano was outside the chain of command when Purisima went directly to Aquino. Clearly, somebody gave the go signal to make it a covert operation; some in the know call it a suicide mission. Clearly, the team leader had to go to the chain of command to get the AFP cover and someone had to give that go signal. Clearly, there was a violation of laws when a suspended PNP chief got involved in tactical operations. Clearly, the suspended PNP chief had to tell someone what had happened on the field of Mamasapano but not the DILG secretary or the acting PNP chief, both of whom he bypassed. Clearly, suspended PNP boss Purisima didn’t want to reveal this operation to the Defense secretary. Clearly, someone knew the details of the operation quite well. Who was Purisima’s buddy who knew of the “actionable intelligence” and who was his superior?
Indeed, the Mamasapano operation, whether Wolverine or Exodus, breached the chain of command. Who is culpable? Who sent his men on an operation without extraction? Who agreed knowing there were peace protocols in place? Who set the motion to derail the peace talks?
44 lives and probably more, perished because of a badly planned operation meant to shore up someone’s credibility ruined by a suspension. Surely, it can’t be the pieces of gold. Pray tell it is not the Nobel! But then again, in this era of Tuwid na Daan, you never know. And that is why we need to know the truth for only then can justice be served.
The Board of Inquiry will not go any higher than the authority for which it was created. The Poe-led hearing in the Senate will be a push and pull of politics. The MILF will have credence if it is able to identify who among their ranks participated and who among their members performed the barbaric rituals. There will be confidence building if they surrender the arms and personal belongings of the Fallen 44. But pardoning the killers? Is that in the cause of peace?
There can only be justice when there is truth. But Mr. President, you said the truth would set us free. Pray tell, have you told the truth?

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