Purisima dared: Break your silence on Mamasapano carnage
MANILA, Philippines –Calls for suspended Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to speak up on the Mamasapano carnage got louder Sunday.
Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Grace Poe urged Purisima to explain his role in the Mamasapano operation that ended in disaster.
On January 25, members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police barged into Mamasapano, Maguindanao to hunt down Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan, one of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terror suspects, and a top Filipino terror suspect, Abdul Basit Usman.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Marwan may have been killed in the raid but Usman escaped.
As the commandos withdrew, they came under fire from members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Some of the policemen maneuvered away in the dark and became entangled in a “misencounter” with heavily armed Muslim rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to Roxas.
When the fierce fighting ended, 44 commandos were dead and 12 others were wounded, national police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said. Some Muslim rebels said as many as 56 of the elite policemen died in the daylong clashes, which left about a dozen insurgents dead.
Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the MILF, accused the SAF members of violating the ceasefire agreement, which requires government forces to coordinate anti-terror assaults and other law enforcement operations with the insurgents to prevent accidental clashes. Senior military officials said they also were unaware of the police offensive.
The carnage was the government’s biggest single-day combat loss in recent memory. It shocked many and prompted at least two senators to withdraw their backing for a bill that would create the Bangsamoro entity in the restive Mindanao under a peace deal signed last March. Many more lawmakers and influential Roman Catholic bishops defended the deal.
In a statement Sunday, Binay said that Purisima could issue a statement on the media to air his side.
“I am also reiterating my appeal for suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to speak up. He may be abroad but he can at least issue a statement or answer questions from media. There are many options open to him other than leaving the country at the most inappropriate time,” Binay said.
The Vice President also said that the suspended police chief is the only person who could answer lingering questions on what really transpired in the encounter.
“Persistent reports from many sources say that Purisima, despite his suspension, planned the operation to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan in Maguindanao. If there is someone who could shed light on what really happened in Mamasapano and put all questions to rest, it would be General Purisima,” Binay explained.
Various reports said that Purisima is currently out of the country to attend a conference in Saipan.
Binay also expressed his support in the establishment of a truth commission to investigate the clash between SAF forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
He said that the commission should be composed of “retired chief justices” and other personalities to establish the integrity of the body and the results of the investigation.
“I strongly urge Malacañang to consider the idea of an impartial investigation of the Mamasapano encounter by a commission composed of our retired chief justices and other eminent and respected personalities,” Binay said.
“We owe the Filipino people the truth. We owe the 44 members of PNP SAF, who offered their lives for the country, the justice they deserve.”
“Investigations conducted by agencies and entities involved in Mamasapano would always invite public skepticism, no matter how sincere the intent might be. The creation of an independent body would erase any doubts as to the impartiality of the probers and the probe results,” he added.
Last Friday, Senate peace, reconciliation and unification committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III called for a creation of a “truth commission” to probe the brutal killing of 44 elite cops in Mamasapano.
Guingona, a senator from Mindanao, said that the “independent” commission would help “get to the bottom of this unfortunate incident and to find the answers to the questions the Nation is asking.”
Why the silence?
Meanwhile, Poe, whose committee on public order will begin its investigation into the bloodbath on Wednesday, said one of the inquiry’s goals was to determine who gave the official order for the mission.
Poe noted that Purisima has been silent amid reports that he had directed the operation and had not publicly expressed his sympathy for the slain commandos, thus stoking public doubt and anger.
“If your name is being linked to the incident but you were not involved in it, isn’t it natural for a person to defend himself, come out and say he had nothing to do with it?” Poe said in an interview over radio station dzBB, and added that the Senate hearing would be a good chance to dispel any false claims about oneself.
She also said that even if Purisima would be unable to attend the first hearing on the issue on Wednesday, he could attend subsequent hearings. If necessary, she would issue a subpoena to compel his attendance, she added. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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