Groups conduct probe on US hand in ‘Operation Wolverine’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/8 February)—Some 150 representatives from civil society organizations (CSOs) launched an investigation Sunday on the alleged involvement of the United States in “Operation Wolverine” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, among others.

The group left Davao City Sunday morning on board four vehicles, in what they described as the “Mission for Truth and Accountability.”

Among the groups that joined the Mamasapano mission, which will last until Thursday, are the militant Kawagib Moro Human Rights and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao.

Kurt Hoyer, press attaché and the spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, earlier denied that the US government had a participation in the Mamasapano operation.

“Let me be clear. Our involvement was as I stated. At the request of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines], US service members serving in JSOTF-P (Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines) responded to assist in the evacuation of casualties after the firefight in Maguindanao,” Hoyer told MindaNews.

In a statement, the CSOs said the fact-finding mission to Mamasapano also seeks “to investigate and verify cases of human rights violations against civilians, seek an understanding of the context, antecedents, and implications of the incident, … and express interfaith solidarity and unity with the affected communities.”

Part of the delegation will also conduct a psycho-social intervention to affected children.

The initial report by some members of the delegation said “there were instances of extrajudicial killing, destruction of properties and forced evacuation.”

At least 1,500 residents were also displaced by the encounter, the report said.

Rius Valle, advocacy officer of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, described the fact-finding mission as “an independent probe to seek for truth and accountability because we do not want to rely on the Board of Inquiry formed by the government.”

The Mamasapano encounter last January 25 left 44 members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force and 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters dead.

The PNP-SAF launched “Operation Wolverine” to arrest alleged Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort Abdul Basit Usman. Both are wanted by the US government, which offered a bounty of US$5 million for Marwan and US$1 million for Usman.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently announced that the results of the DNA tests they conducted confirmed that Marwan was indeed killed in the encounter.

In a statement published at the Philippine Star last Saturday, former Bayan Muna Partylist representative Satur Ocampo said “there were two leads to the alleged US involvement in the operation.”

First was the statement of the FBI, which noted its “partnership” with the PNP, and next was an anonymous source, presumably a high-ranking PNP official, saying there were Americans training the SAF personnel for Operation Wolverine, he said. (MindaNews)