MANILA — After five hearings, Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said Tuesday that the Senate will have to wrap up its investigation on the Jan. 25 anti-terrorist operation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Poe said the Senate will prepare a committee report that would include necessary legislation including the proposed PNP Modernization Program which remains pending in Congress.
”In closing, these hearings have necessarily focused on the undeniable lapses in the conduct of operations leading to 44 deaths of the PNP-SAF. It appears that the operation was poorly planned from the start to make matters worse, there was an undeniable breakdown of both leadership and command and control in the PNP,” Poe said.
Poe said it is clear the lack of coordination among the concerned officials both from the PNP and the AFP should be addressed both by the executive and legislative branches of the government.
”In the joint committee report that we are preparing, the committees will propose legislative actions necessary to avoid repetition of this incident in the future,” she said.
Poe also thanked all the concerned individuals from the government and from the leadership of the MILF for cooperating throughout the five public hearings.
During the hearing, resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima confirmed that President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered him to specifically inform acting PNP chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina about the Oplan Exodus.
”I confirmed that the order was given to me by the President,” Purisima told Senate President Franklin Drilon during Tuesday’s continuation of the Senate inquiry in the Mamasapano incident.
”The order was given to you by the President but you only informed him after the operation was launched already?” Drilon asked again Purisima.
Purisima answered: “Yes your honor.”
Purisima, who was then a suspended PNP chief, claimed only the accountability to delegate the authority to PNP Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Getulio Napenas.
”The responsibility and accountability rest on me because I have delegated that authority to SAF director. The accountability rest on me to delegate authority to Napenas,” Purisima when asked by Senator Loren Legarda who headed the Oplan Exodus.
Napenas, for his part, acknowledged that he has been delegated to carry out the operation plan that, he said, all emanated when the intelligence packet was given to him by Purisima at 10:00 p.m. on November 10, 2014.
”After we prepared the operation plan, we had it approved by the PNP chief Gen. Purisima who then was still active,” Napenas said.
Napenas insisted that he just followed the advice of Purisima not to coordinate with acting PNP chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as well as with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang Jr.
”I wish that I could have been given that authority (to coordinate) because otherwise I will be bypassing the OIC PNP,” Napenas told Legarda when asked why he did not coordinate with AFP and Espina way ahead of the mission.
The relieved SAF chief told the Senate panel that President Aquino commented during a January meeting, telling Purisima to coordinate with Espina, Roxas and the AFP.
”It was a comment during that meeting that coordination shall be made to the AFP your honor. It was clear that coordination with AFP should be undertaken,” Napenas said.
For Roxas, whether the instruction of Purisima was advice or order, “there was an overt attempt or effort to keep this away from the OIC PNP chief (Espina) and from the DILG chief.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, on the other hand, believed that Purisima was the head of the Oplan Exodus designed to capture terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Basit Usman.
In defense, Purisima said his understanding was that Napenas would be the one coordinating with Catapang because he was then suspended.
”This is clear misunderstanding,” Legarda commented.
The public hearing on the Mamasapano incident started almost two-hour late of the 10:00 a.m. schedule due to an executive session where the PNP and the AFP officials have been given a chance to reconcile their statements on the issue of lack of coordination that led to the killing of the 44 SAF troopers.
However, Napenas failed to control himself from expressing again his frustration from the late reinforcement he requested from the AFP when the 55th Special Action Company encountered with combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
”Contrary to the reports in the media that the AFP did not help us, we acknowledged that they gave us a big help. However, had we been given the support or artillery that we had been asking from the very morning of that day, maybe we could have avoided this incident of losing 44 lives,” Napenas said.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division that sent mechanized brigade and artillery in the Mamasapano encounter, could not hide his emotion when Napenas blamed anew the AFP.
”I’m thankful that at least our little help was recognized and it eased the pain I felt right now but what I can’t accept was that he thanked but just the same, we are still blamed for the death,” Pangilinan, holding his emotion, said.
”I have disclosures (in executive session) that I did not disclose because our secretary and chief of staff have guidance not to add that would worsen the wounds of the victims. But how about our feelings, the people who helped, that’s painful to me. I don’t want to be emotional here,” Pangilinan added.
Senator Poe advised Napenas to stop making statements that would hurt the relationship between the PNP and AFP.
”I’m not giving side to anybody here but if you will express appreciation and then putting blaming again, it is not productive. We cannot say that AFP did not do anything,” Poe said.