GENERAL SANTOS CITY, March 17, 2015 – The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry on the Mamasapano January 25 “Oplan Exodus” to get the Malaysian terrorist Julkipli bin Hir alias “Marwan” submitted its Report to PNP Acting Director General Leonardo Espina last Thursday and to DILG (Department of Local Government and Interior) Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II last Friday. After that, it was made available online (“INQUIRER.net, March 13, 2015: Full report: The Mamasapano incident).
Philippine Daily Inquirer said it re-posted the entire Report; it published in full the 22-point conclusion of the Report that summed up how the PNP had lost 44 Special Action Force commandos. PDI and The Philippine Star must have obtained a copy of that right last Thursday which they used in their reports last Friday while other online media only reported the turn-over of the Report – reporting the details only last Saturday.
As reported in the media last Saturday, the Report established that the President gave the go-signal to launch the operation. However, he broke the PNP chain of command when he allowed suspended PNP DG Alan Purisima “to participate” – in fact, having the lead role – in the “planning and execution” and by-passed PNP Acting DG Leonardo Espina while keeping him in the dark. (Conclusion Points 1 to 5).
It was Purisima who “provided inaccurate information” to the President about the operation on January 25 (CP 6).
The Report summarized what went wrong in the operation pointing out the faults of SAF Commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas (CP 7 to 20).
CP 21 revealed the participation of the Americans: “The United States involvement was limited to intelligence sharing and medical evacuation. Only SAF Commandos were involved in the actual combat operation of Oplan Exodus.”
CP 22 gave an emotionless, factual account of the much-sensationalized “massacre” and “slaughter” of the SAF 44: “Autopsy reports indicate that four (4) SAF Commandos were shot at close-range while they were still alive. Records also indicate the possibility that some SAF Commandos were stripped-off their protective vests prior to being shot at close-range.”
Without doubt “only SAF Commandos were involved in the actual combat”. The Report is positive that the American involvement in Oplan Exodus “was limited to intelligence sharing and medical evacuation”. However, knowing the Americans, will six of them sit at the tactical command post (TCP) with Napeñas just sharing “intelligence” and waiting to help in “medical evacuation”? Don’t be surprised if skeptics and scoffers are talking American, “Tell that to the Marines.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer (March 12, 2015: BOI’s ‘Mamasapano Report’ notes presence of 6 Americans, Purisima’s role) reported a few details on the American involvement officially included in the BOI report. This was update on the following day (Police BOI report confirms US role in ‘Oplan Exodus’).
We have in our file thirteen reports from January 26 to March 12, last Thursday, when the BOI report was submitted to PNP Acting Director General Espina, to supplement the few official details. Certainly, there are reports on American involvement not in our file. The thirteen are from:
Philippine Daily Inquirer, nine: DNA test on Marwan done in US—FBI, 2/5/215; US funded SAF operations to get Marwan—source, 2/5/15; US drone watched Mamasapano debacle, 2/8/15; Drones ‘twinkled at night; Overhead flights peaked on Jan. 24, say residents, 2/14/15; ‘US behind Oplan Exodus’; Americans gave funds, intel, says SAF officer, 2/16/15; 8 Americans sighted monitoring Oplan Exodus; US drone located trapped SAF men, say sources, 2/17/15; PNP official sees nothing wrong in US giving help, 2/17/15; Aide betrayed Marwan; Informer slain by terrorist himself, PDI 3/8/15..
The Philippine Star, two: Wikileaks shows US funded Mamasapano operation – solon , 2/11/15; ‘US military involved in Exodus’, 2/17/15.
What did the March 12 PDI story report?
- Direct involvement of US forces in the SAF operation is among the findings of the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry. It confirmed the presence of “six American nationals” at the TCP in Shariff Aguak on the eve of the January 25 operation of the Special Action Force with Napeñas and other SAF commanders to provide real-time information to the SAF troops,”.
- Relieved SAF commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas stated under oath that, besides providing medical (support) to the operation, the PNP’s “US counterparts had been providing reliable information” about Marwan and his Filipino lieutenant, Basit Usman.
- “Towards the retrieval operations, US forces also helped in the medical evacuation of the besieged and wounded SAF commandos. The ‘pilots of the helicopter who helped in evacuating wounded personnel to the hospital’ were among the identified American nationals at the TCP”.
- Napeñas also confirmed that the left index finger of Marwan — not right, as earlier reported in the media — was sent to two representatives of the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation waiting at General Santos City on January 28, 2015.
- The pictures of Marwan, taken by the Seaborne immediately after he was killed, were also turned over to the FBI as well as the DILG and the PNP as part of the evidence.”
What did the other thirteen news stories referred to above reveal?
Item 1: The US fully supported the operations to get Marwan – planning, training, funding, providing equipment, etc. Oplan Exodus was the fifth operation since 2010; the four others had failed (PDI, 2/5/15: US funded …). The US did not want to coordinate with the military and the MILF following the failures of the four past Oplans (PDI, 2/16/15: US behind …).
Item 2: SAC 85th and SAC 55th companies were trained in La Vista Resort in Calarian, Zamboanga City – the first, seaborne, as the assault unit, and the second, as the support. Two SAF commandos – one, the lone survivor of the 55th, and the other from the 84th obviously, described their training.
Item 3: Needless to say, but it was reported just the same, Purisima, before and after his appointment as PNP DG, knew of the Calarian training. The reports did not say so, but as Purisima had been in the know, the President must also have been.
Item 4: Besides the $6-million prize money on the head of Marwan and the $1-million on Usman’s, millions of Uncle Sam’s dollars (billions in Philippine peso) must have been spent by the US. In 2010 alone, $34.1 million was appropriated according to a Wikileaks report citing cable “09MANILA2271” (Star, 2/11/15: Wikileaks …)
Item 5: Drones were extensively used for real-time intelligence gathering before and during the January 25 operations. Clear topographic videos showed rivers and the number of houses. Napeñas has a video showing Marwan by his hut. As told by local residents, night surveillance started a week before the January 25 and intensified nightly with January 24 as the busiest.
Item 6: “Inquirer sources said that the Mamasapano operation was directed by an American named Allan Konz and that at least eight Americans were monitoring from the SAF command post in Shariff Aguak the operation against Marwan (PDI 2/17/15: PNP official sees …).”
Konz as immediate supervisor of the 84th for Marwan’s intelligence packet was “in fact in command” of the 84th; he was at the TCP in Shariff Aguak in the evening of January 24 and on January 25 (PDI, 2/16/15: US behind …).
Item 7: Marwan’s finger was given to the six Americans who kept tabs on the mission to capture Marwan. They flew out of the SAF TCP on the night of January 25, bringing with them Marwan’s finger and their equipment (PDI, 3/8/15: Aide betrayed Marwan …).
This is contrary to, but more credulous than, the BOI report. To assure Marwan’s fall was the main reason for the six Americans to be with Napeñas at the TCP. Why should they not take the evidence of the success of their mission on going back to Zamboanga City? Why would they wait for three more days for the finger and photographs to be delivered to the FBI agents in General Santos City 200 kilometers away?
What are the implications from the above?
PDI was forthright: Quoting its source, “Come to think of it, the Americans dictated every move. In the Mamasapano operation, the Americans made the arrangement; they paid two MILF men who served as guides. Napeñas was just following the Americans because if he did not, the Americans would withdraw their support” (PDI, 2/16/15: US behind …).
And, in another report (Aide betrayed Marwan; Informer slain by terrorist himself, PDI 3/8/15), also quoting its source, “The presence of the Americans at the SAF command post could be proof of direct US involvement in the operation.”
Visualize Napeñas at the wheel with a backseat driver giving directions. As Konz was monitoring the operation by drone feeds, he must also be making sure that Napeñas did not veer away from the main focus: “No failure this time; get Marwan at all cost.”
Does this explain why, as the President said in his 30-minute narrative after the March 9 prayer meeting, Napeñas did not abort the January 25 operation when he should have; why he panicked and made erratic decisions?
The Mamasapano covert operation was a debacle. But to the Americans, getting Marwan at a pyrrhic cost was a success worth the millions of dollars they had invested.
Should the media reports not be dismissed as hearsays?
In court, according to the rule of law, hearsays are without evidentiary value. But that does not mean hearsays are completely devoid of truth. In fact, there are cases where the accused is convicted by manufactured evidence – pure lies but substantiated and attested to according to law or rules of court.
We don’t know how PNP BOI factored in the media reports in their investigation. But this we know. BOI had more restrictions than media editors and reporters. Without any formal process, BOI could not include statements attributed to the President. Because of executive privilege, the cellphone conversations of the President and Purisima could not be divulged without the President’s permission. The BOI report lacked the testimonies of the President, Purisima and the AFP chief of staff; they refused to be interviewed.
Media published all that the President said in his three speeches on Mamasapano, the latest last March 9 – his 30-minute narrative. Media would publish statements of officials even if later these officials would claim as having been “misquoted” if their statements backfire instead of gaining “pogi” or good points.
Two American diplomats returning from South America talked about their mission. Seated behind them in the plane was a Washington Post correspondent. He recorded their conversation and published it in the Post on the next day. This was considered a “leak” but legitimate news. Media publish “leaks”, so the legitimacy as news of reports based from “Wikileaks”.
By diplomatic restrictions, BOI could only acknowledge the presence of six Americans at the SAF TCP in Shariff Aguak with Napeñas and other SAF commanders and the sharing of intelligence and medical support – part of US-GRP agreements. This acknowledgment fits well into the web of reports about more strategic and vital US involvements even if denied by the US Embassy in Manila and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
MindaNews, Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star did not pick their stories from thin air. Among their sources were SAF commandos who survived the Mamasapano debacle, local residents of Mamasapano and other reliable sources. PNP, and later BOI, confirmed the US involvement to the extent allowed by diplomatic protocol.
(Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)