MANILA – Philippine National Police Former Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) chief Director General Getulio Napenas on Tuesday admitted that the United States participated in the medical evacuation during the Mamasapano encounter that left 44 SAF commandos dead on January 25.
Testifying at the resumption of the Senate inquiry into the bloody Mamasapano encounter, Napenas said that he requested for the US medical evacuation assistance after learning that his men on the ground have also suffered casualties.
”I took the initiative to ask for assistance from the US based in Zamboanga to provide us medical evacuation using their helicopters,” Napenas answered queries by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto.
Napenas explained the US has its own protocol to provide medical evacuation to police and military personnel involved in the operation against terrorism.
”I was asking about the role of the US or the FBI in the intelligence, planning of the operation an extraction because there is reward money, drones, choppers and index finger (Marwan) has been given to FBI instead to the PNP,”
Napenas clarified that he has no knowledge whether the US knew about the operation dubbed as ‘Oplan Exodus’ aimed at capturing two high-profile terrorist Marwan or Zulkifli bin Hir and Basit Usman.
”I have no knowledge if the FBI knew about this operation earlier. It was already during the time that we are receiving reports of casualties that I requested for medical evacuation,” Napenas said.
Senators Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero and Loren Legarda inquired Napenas why the SAF sent Marwan’s finger to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation if the US had no knowledge about the operation to get Marwan and Usman.
This time, Napenas requested for an executive session upon advise by his legal counsel.
Marwan’s index finger was cut off by the SAF men after they killed the Malaysian bomb expert and the US FBI reportedly confirmed the death of Marwan through DNA tests.
Napenas reiterated that he had no direct order from President Benigno Aquino III to proceed with the operation.
However, he claimed the President was present when he handed the mission update to former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima on January 9 at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacanang.
”Your honor if there was a direct order from the President that the mission is a go, that would have been a very good opportunity to me and a situation where I could break a chain of command considering that order would have come from the president,” Napenas.
Napenas said it was his judgment call to inform Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina, former PNP chief Alan Purisima and even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) about the operation time on target.
The relived SAF chief, however, admitted that he got advice from Purisima not to inform Roxas and Espina ahead of time.
Meanwhile, Espina clarified the PNP and the AFP has vibrant relationship, saying the non-coordination was isolated in the ‘Oplan Exodus’.
”Honestly, the relationship of the whole AFP and the PNP is vibrant. There might some misunderstanding on the ground on this particular case,” Espina explained.
During the hearing, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV defended the decision of Philippine Army 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan to stick to military protocol by not giving immediately to request for artillery fire.
”What if they broke the protocol and they fire artillery and that killed our SAF troopers and civilians, that would be more difficult to accept. It’s not that simple. It is very complex,” Trillanes, a former Navy officer, said.
Napenas has said he inform the 6th ID about the encounter at 6:18am but reinforcement arrived only after seven hours, resulting to heavy casualties in the operation that has not been coordinated with the AFP.
Napenas said the SAF troops, specifically the members of the 55th Company, have ran out of ammunition during the entire day of encounter with the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).