GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 Feb) – The Philippine National Police board of inquiry (BOI) embarked on a three-day mission to Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Tuesday as part of the final phase of its ongoing investigation into the bloody Jan. 25 clash in the area that led to the killing of 44 elite police commandos.
The eight-person board led by its Director Benjamin Magalong left for Mamasapano around 9:30 a.m. following a breakfast and coordination meeting at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-South Cotabato provincial office in Koronadal City.
Magalong, who heads the CIDG, also met briefly with South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes at the CIDG office, which is just beside the provincial capitol compound.
In an interview with reporters, the official said their investigation mission to Mamasapano is focused on getting a “clearer picture” of the encounter site in Barangay Tukanalipao and the area covered by operation plan or “Oplan Exodus” of the police Special Action Force (SAF).
The SAF troopers were serving arrest warrants for Malaysian bombing suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and local bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman in the outskirts of Mamasapano, Maguindanao when they clashed with the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Marwan, who was reportedly killed in the operation, and Usman were included in the terror list of the United States and carry a combined bounty of US$ 6 million.
“We will look at the environment, the situation on the ground and other related factors,” Magalong said.
He said it is important for the BOI to see the site first-hand so it could properly validate the tactical descriptions cited in the affidavits, reports and other accounts regarding the incident.
Magalong said they have lined up interviews with local government officials, residents, witnesses and other concerned individuals.
Prior to the site investigation, he said they made the necessary coordination, specifically with local governments, police and military units, the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the MILF.
“We’re targeting to finish the site investigation in three days so we can proceed with the report writing and analysis, which is the most crucial part (of our task),” he said.
Magalong said they have so far completed “80 to 90 percent” of their investigation into the incident and the BOI is on track towards meeting its one-month target, which is until the end of the month.
“We’re doing our best to meet the deadline kaya tuloy-tuloy ang aming imbestigasyon,” he said.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II ordered late last month the creation of the BOI to lead the investigation into the Mamasapano incident.
The board was specifically tasked to look into the internal and external aspects, as well as the possible liabilities of the officers involved in the operation.
Aside from Magalong, the other BOI members who joined the site investigation were Director Catalino Rodriguez, Chief Supt. John Sosito, Senior Supt. Roberto Po, Senior Supt. Ronald dela Rosa, Senior Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. and Chief Insp. David Joy Duarte.