MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday that the 15 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who survived in the Mamasapano encounter last Jan. 25 are still confined at the PNP General Hospital at Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“We are not yet giving them medical clearance to make sure that they are no longer suffering any pain in their bodies before we allow them to be discharged from the hospital,” PNP-Public Information Office (PIO) officer-in-charge Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said.
He also said that the patients are prevented from being visited by media people in the hospital for the meantime.
He explained that at present, the 15 SAF men are longing to return to their respective homes in Mindanao to help in the operations against bomb expert Basit Usman and other high value targets.
“As of now, the injured soldiers are expressing their desire to go back to their units to participate in the operation to capture Usman,” Cerbo added.
According to the PNP-PIO chief, the final decision to release the SAF members from the hospital would depend on PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II.
Meanwhile, Roxas said that those who are accountable in the tragic incident will be held responsible,” referring to the core objective of the investigations being conducted by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) regarding OPLAN Exodus, which led to the deaths of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and 44 SAF members.
Roxas also clarified that all these are on hindsight as the BOI still has to come up with a full report on the details of the incident and submit recommendations.
“But it is impossible to have recommendations while investigations are not yet done. An injustice cannot be compounded by another injustice,” he added.
On Tuesday, the BOI chairman, Director Benjamin Magalong, also the head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), pledged to complete and release its report by Feb. 26.
Other members of the BOI include Director Catalino Rodriquez and Chief Supt. John Sosito.
Magalong gave assurance that the BOI will be truthful and transparent in its investigation.
“There will be no let-up in the inquiry. With the support of the CIDG and IAS (Internal Affairs Services), we will continue taking depositions, identifying and locating other witnesses that can provide additional information on the incident,” he said.
Upon the creation of the BOI, Magalong formed a five-man operational audit team (OAT) composed of senior and middle grade PNP officers who are knowledgeable in the conduct of SAF and PNP operations.
The team is composed of Senior Supt. Robert Po, as the team leader, and Senior Supt. Ronald Dela Rosa, Senior Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Senior Supt. Benigno Duran, and Chief Insp. David Joy Duarte.
As this developed, Magalong said the BOI has employed 46 investigators from different CIDG regional offices in the ongoing investigation.
These police officers have already spent 5,152 man-hours since the formation of the BOI last Jan. 26.
Magalong said that these men were deployed to secure the affidavits of PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers who directly participated and provided support in the SAF operation.
He also said that out of the 348 personnel from the SAF, 302 have signed and submitted their sworn statements while 42 officers are yet to provide their affidavits.
To date, all of the 14 key players from the AFP side have given their respective statements but seven remain unsigned.
Of the four key personalities of the Government of the Philippines Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH CCCH), all have executed their statements except for one.
“The BOI has yet to take the sworn affidavits of three key personalities from MILF-CCCH (Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities) and PRO-ARMM (Police Regional Office Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) personnel,” Magalong said.lities according to their participation in the operation.