MANILA –She’s not dubbed the ‘Dragon Lady’ and the ‘Iron Lady of Asia’ for nothing.
Veteran Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday was one of the many senators who interpellated the third day of the Senate probe on the Mamasapano clash.
Clearly in no mood to waste much of her precious time, Santiago went right ahead for the kill: Grilling the former chief of the Philippine National Police, Gen. Alan Purisima.
Breathing fire, Santiago did not mince her words as she addressed the recently resigned general. She asked why Purisima was with then Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas in an ‘Oplan Exodus’ briefing with President Benigno Aquino III on January 9, 2015, when he has been suspended since December 4, 2014.
In response, Purisima clarified that it was the only time he spoke with Aquino about ‘Oplan Exodus.’
Enraged, Santiago replied, “You performed the functions of your office, albeit in a surreptitious manner. And then you say that you’re not violating the terms of your preventive suspension? You’re using words to confuse the person listening to you. Nakialam ka eh (You interfered)!”
‘Oplan Exodus’ turned into what is now dubbed the ‘Mamasapano Clash,’ and by some the ‘Mamasapano misencounter.’ The operation’s targets were international terrorist Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias ‘Marwan’ and his Filipino apprentice Abdul Basit Usman. The clash ended up killing ‘Marwan,’ together with 44 elite cops from the PNP Special Action Forces, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and at least 3 civilians.
“Bakit ka salita nang salita? Bakit di ka manatili sa estate mo sa Nueva Ecija. Kung di ka siguro sumali, buhay sila,” Santiago added, referring to Purisima’s controversial property in Nueva Ecija — the alleged result of his anomalous dealings inside the PNP, which led to his suspension.
When Purisima made the mistake of saying he was not giving Napeñas a ‘command’ but rather an ‘advice,’ Santiago had more choice words for the former PNP Chief.
“Don’t quibble with me… You were suspended and still dipping your fingers in the pie,” she said.
“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Saying ’I delegated the authority but I did not delegate the responsibility’ or some such words? You should hear yourself talk!” Santiago said in one instance.
As if throwing more gasoline in a raging fire, Purisima said it was ultimately Napeñas’ call to heed his advice or not, having total control over the operation.
“Ah, lahat na lang ituro niyo sa SAF Commander? 44 men are dead and you’re all pointing fingers to the SAF Commander? Common sense dictates—sentido comon na lang ito eh, hindi naman siya ang pinakamataas eh. (So you should just blame everything on the SAF commander? 44 men are dead, it’s just common sense, he is not the highest [raking officer])!” she said.
“Sinong mas mataas sa kanya? Ang chief ng PNP, pero preventively suspended ka. Tapos ’yung kapalit mo na acting chief, ayaw ninyong sabihan. Wala siyang kaalam-alam. Kaya sino lang ang nakaalam? Ikaw at si President Aquino (Who has more authority than him [Napeñas]? The PNP Chief, but you were preventively suspended then. Then the one who took your place, you de).”
The veteran senator also asked Purisima if it was Aquino who instructed him to keep DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) Secretary Mar Roxas and acting PNP Chief Deputy Director Gen. Leandro Espina in the dark about the entire operation. Purisima said no.
She then asked if it was the other way around–if he was the one who gave the order to keep Roxas and Espina out of the operation. Again, his answer was no.
Miriam calls Napeñas ‘a failure’
“You’re a failure. You’re incompetent” Santiago told sacked Special Action Force commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas.
“You have acted like as a gentleman, but I want to know who are the people pulling the strings behind you, since you are not the commander-in-chief of the PNP,” the Dragon lady fumed.
No holding back, Santiago was violently flustered why the 64th SAF company did not reach ‘Marwan’ location on time and instead ended up attacking the rebel camp when the militants were already awake for the morning prayer at 5:00 AM.
“You cited intervening factors. The operation should have proceeded smoothly eh kayo nagpaplano (you were the ones planning it),” Santiago said.
According to their initial plan, the assault force was set to reach Marwan’s camp at 2:30 AM. However, according Napeñas, the operation was delayed because only 13 men were able to cross the river leading to the rebel camp.
“Ang problema sa ’yo (The problem with you), sir, is you’re assuming full responsibility for the operation… I doubt very much your statement that you were in full or sole control of that operation,” Santiago noted.
“Maraming nagkamali, hindi sa ’yo lahat nanggaling ang detalye kaya hindi ka dapat ma-blame for the whole fiasco (Lots of people screwed up, not every little detail came from you so you shouldn’t be blamed for everything),” she told Napeñas
‘Until they ran out of bullets‘
“[The SAF commandos] fought heroically,” Santiago said.
“These 44 are heroes of the country, but they ran out bullets! They fought until they ran out of bullets!” she added.
After finding out that the mission was delayed, she said, “They were trapped there, dahil nagising na ang BIFF at MILF. The men literally walked into a trap!”
“Inisa-isa sila. They were just sitting ducks there. Sa video makikita natin (In the video we can see)… it’s so gruesome, it will infest your nightmares. [Tinamaan] lang sa paa, pinuntahan niya, binaril niya sa ulo—twice. Wala siyang pakundangan (One got shot in the foot and he was shot in the head–twice. He has no respect). That’s the people we’re going to sign an agreement with? The Bangsamoro Basic Law? Maliban diyan, may dala pa siyang baril at camera! Kayayabang-yabang na tao, i-u-upload niya sa YouTube! Parang trophy of war niya ’yan. Ganyang klaseng kalaban ang meron tayo.”
(They were killed one by one. They were just sitting ducks there. In the video we can see… it’s so gruesome, it will infest your nightmares. One got shot in the foot and he was shot in the head–twice. He has no respect. That’s the people we’re going to sign an agreement with? The Bangsamoro Basic Law? Other than that, he [the assailant in the circulation video] even brought a gun and a camera! What a shameless person, he even uploaded it on YouTube! It’s like his trophy of was. This is the kind of enemy we are up against.)
“That is why, we call this a massacre, not an encounter,” she pointed out.