MANILA, Philippines – Sacked Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas, asserted that they coordinated with the military in Oplan Wolverine, a disastrous operation targeted to arrest international terrorist Zulkifi bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province.
However, PNP officer in charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina maintained that the military was not informed about the encounter which ended with a Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Font (MILF) guerillas clash killing 44 of the 392 police commandos involved.
Napeñas stated that he directly reported to suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima since the police operational procedures obliged a commander to inform his superior about a mission before or during the operation.
Napeñas also admitted that it was Purisima’s order to withhold informing Espina until the SAF operation was launched.
“Purisima told me to tell Deputy Director General Espina only when the operation was already going on,” he said in a media briefing, adding that they were already there and the troops were already deployed when he informed Espina.
Espina confirmed Napeñas’ statement as he learned about the police operation through a text message at 5:30 am whereas the target was already killed at 4:00 am.
“I was informed during the encounter. I was made to understand they killed the target around 4:00 am. I received the information at 5:30 am,” he said.
Asked why they also did not inform Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who has supervision over the PNP, Napeñas said that he was not allowed to report directly to Roxas because Espina came first in the chain of command.
“I could not go directly to him because that would be a violation of the chain of command,” he said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. defended the military’s action during the operation, explaining that they were not reinforced to fight the Moro guerillas but to extricate the trapped police commandos.
“We went there to reinforce them but the reinforcements were there to extricate them, not to join the fight with the MILF and BIFF or whatever combat units they engaged,” he said, citing the government’s ceasefire agreement with the MILF.
Some Filipinos claimed that the 44 commandos could have been spared had SAF coordinated with the military sooner rather than later.
With report from Cyra Moraleda