MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said the operation to get two high profile terrorists — Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman — on January 25 was ‘vastly different from what was expected under the plans.”
The finding was based on the investigations that the President himself conducted through interviews with the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who participated in the operation.
The mission has resulted in the killing of 44 SAF men after they encountered with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) elements in the area of operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
”It is clearly emerged that: The situation our troops found on the ground was vastly different from what was expected under the plans,” the President said in his televised address to the nation.
The President said sacked SAF chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. should have been aware of the situation since he has long been assigned to Mindanao.
”Situational awareness is demanded of him. As commander, he had full knowledge of the entire plan, together with the dangers that came with it; he would be the first to know if the plan was being executed correctly. He should have known what was happening at every moment,” the President said.
President Aquino also found out that Napeñas had at least three chances to abort or postpone the operation “or when the plan could have been dramatically changed.”
”There was an even greater need for this, especially since he was well aware that no coordination had taken place regarding expected assistance, and since the Armed Forces could render little aid, if at all, because they were not given sufficient time to prepare,” the President said.
Just like millions of Filipinos and other public officials, the President also asked why there was no coordination with the AFP.
”How and why did it happen that there was no coordination? Why did the mission continue, when it had deviated so far from the original plan, and our troops were already in grave danger?,” President Aquino asked.
President Aquino said Napenas will be given a chance to explain himself “in the appropriate proceedings”, including the PNP Board of Inquiry.
Napenas reportedly claimed the AFP was aware of the situation, that was denied by the AFP leadership.
The sacked SAF commander also said suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima was giving instructions to him during the operation, a claim the latter also denied.
Purisima tendered his resignation which the President accepted on Friday “effective immediately.”