Over 300 SAF men on standby as 44 died in battle–military source
COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The initial results of the military investigation on the Mamasapano carnage showed that around 300 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force “sat on the fence” as their colleagues battled Moro gunmen on Jan. 25, a military source revealed on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on condition of anonymity, the source—who was privy to the military investigation—said the initial findings revealed the conduct of the backup forces in the Mamasapano operation and it could help shed light on why it ended that way.
At least 44 SAF men were killed in the operation—aimed at arresting Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan and Moro bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman—when they clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front gunmen and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members.
The military source said soldiers from the Army’s Mechanized Battalion, the 601st Infantry Brigade and the 45th Infantry Battalion had found some 300 SAF policemen milling along the highway as their colleagues were battling Moro gunmen.
“When soldiers arrived in Mamasapano, a lot of policemen were just along the highway. They were ‘sitting on the fence.’ If they are the backup men of SAF, they are too far from the encounter site,” the source said.
The source said the area where the SAF men stayed was about four kilometers from the clash site.
“Four-kilometer distance is a suicide. When you carry out a mission, it’s not like that,” the source added.
The source said even when elements of the 45th IB moved closer to where the clash took place, the SAF men did not move.
“They did not go with our men. They just stayed at the highway,” the source said.
“We are disappointed because it’s unfair to say we did not send troops to the ground,” the source added.
Capt. Jo-Anne Petinglay, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, confirmed they sent men to Mamasapano as the SAF was battling Moro gunmen.
She said the sending of troops there had been coordinated with the government’s ceasefire team.
But she would not comment on the revelation on the SAF men not moving in to reinforce their beleaguered comrades.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.