Wesmincom chief after killing of ex-Sayyaf men in police, NBI raid: Remember Mamasapano
ZAMBOANGA CITY—The highest ranking military official in Western Mindanao has only one advice to agents of the Special Action Force (SAF) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who were put on the hot seat following an Aug. 2 anti-terror operation that killed three persons in Basilan.
“We don’t want a repeat of Mamasapano,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejano, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief, referring to the village in Maguindanao province which became known as the site where 44 SAF commandos were killed in an anti-terrorism operation that became the biggest debacle of the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III.
The SAF operation in Mamasapano on Jan. 25, 2015 targeted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin HIr, alias Marwan, who was killed. It cost the lives of 44 SAF members, however, which had been blamed on lack of coordination by the police with the military and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which had a peace agreement with the Philippine government.
Sobejana said he had already called the attention of the SAF and NBI officials who operated in Basilan on Aug. 2 without coordination with the military.
“They can always operate independently, but they should coordinate,” Sobejana said.
Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman has called for a House inquiry on the Aug. 2 operation in Basilan.
Hataman, in his resolution, said SAF men and NBI agents from Zamboanga City conducted the Basilan operation “without following protocol.”
He said the killing of three civilians during the operation could be “detrimental” to efforts by the provincial government of Basilan and the military-led Joint Task Force Basilan to counter extremism through peaceful means.
On Tuesday (Aug. 6) Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde defended SAF men in the operations saying there was nothing irregular.
Albayalde said those killed in the operations were wanted men involved in kidnapping and terrorism.
In a joint statement posted on social media, the 84th Seaborne SAF and the NBI maintained the regularity of the Aug. 2 operation.
They claimed that the three fatalities and four others who allegedly surrendered, were all members of Abu Sayyaf, a homegrown terror group involved in kidnappings and extortion.
“This operation was an effort to preempt the grave threat to the people,” said Maj. Gen. Amando Clifton Empiso, SAF chief. He said SAF men were put in “extreme danger” as the suspects “chose to fight.”
“Those terrorists who preferred to surrender were treated humanely,” Empiso said.
Maj. Arvin John Encinas, Westmincom spokesperson, said the military was not questioning the legality of the SAF and NBI operations but only raising the issue about failure to coordinate.
Oplan Kapanatagan (Peace), which is jointly being enforced by the military and police, required “all operations on the ground” to be coordinated, Encinas said.
On Aug. 2, SAF and NBI operatives raided the residences of Ajan Mande and two civilian militiamen at the village of Candiis in Hadji Muhammad Ajul town.
Town Mayor Ibrahim Baliqho said the raid led to the killing of brothers Aljan and Jamsid Mande, and Radjak Ammah, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the village.
The SAF also arrested a civilian militiaman, a retired soldier and two other civilians during the raid.
Encinas, however, said the dead men had supported the military campaign to convince Abu Sayyaf members to surrender. The Mande brothers were former Abu Sayyaf members.
The brothers had surrendered to Lt. Col. Montano Almodovar, head of the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion, on March 10, 2018. They have since been part of the campaign to bring Abu Sayyaf members back to the folds of the law.
Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Salliman expressed concern that the killings would have an impact on the campaign.
At least 216 former Abu Sayyaf fighters in Basilan had surrendered so far. At least half, including the slain Mande brothers, were completing a basic education course through the Alternative Learning System of the Department of Education.
Many of those who surrendered, the governor said, expressed fear for their safety following the killing of the Mande brothers during the SAF and NBI raid./TSB
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