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Palace clears Purisima: No PNP chain of command

Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima faces questions from senators during Day 2 of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident. RAFFY LERMA

Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima faces questions from senators during Day 2 of the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident. RAFFY LERMA

Malacañang on Wednesday said Alan Purisima was “no longer in the line of authority” and could not be held liable when he met with President Benigno Aquino III on Jan. 9 in the planning of a commando operation in January that turned into a bloodbath.

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By then, Purisima was on preventive suspension as Philippine National Police chief on corruption charges.

“He (Purisima) had the actionable intelligence. That was the role that he had,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.

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Asked if by being at the Bahay Pangarap meeting attended by top officers of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) Purisima still had the influence and power of a PNP chief despite being suspended, Lacierda said that thought was going by the idea of the “chain of command construct” followed in the military.

“You must remember that the Philippine National Police under the Constitution is civilian in character, so what you’re saying—what you’re presupposing is that there’s a chain of command that was being observed,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said that in Tuesday’s Senate inquiry into the Jan. 25 massacre of 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, while pursuing two “high-value” terrorists, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima opined that the PNP, being civilian in character, did not have the chain of command structure in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He said the civilian equivalent of the chain of command was the “line of authority or command responsibility.”

When asked if Purisima still had command responsibility on Jan. 9, Lacierda replied:

“That’s a question that should be asked in the inquiry. I cannot speak for Gen. Purisima. I mean that’s part of the inquiry.”

Purisima, suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman on Dec. 4 last year on corruption charges, resigned last week. President Aquino on Friday announced he had accepted the resignation.

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Lacierda said that the relieved SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, failed to follow the instructions of President Aquino to “coordinate” the operation to get Marwan, according to testimony in the Senate hearings. “Unfortunately, that coordination was not followed,” he said.

The Palace has said that

Mr. Aquino met with the suspended Purisima on Jan. 9 because Purisima had “actionable intelligence” on Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a Malaysian terrorist, and his Filipino deputy, Abdul Basit Usman.

 

Ombudsman probers

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines during a forum on Wednesday that Purisima could still be held accountable because he resigned as PNP director general and not as a PNP member. “We can still run after him,” she said.

“A possible charge is usurpation of authority [because] he was under suspension when the alleged order came from him. I said ‘alleged’ we are not yet determining whether he participated. To use his word, he merely advised, not ordered,” Morales said.

Morales said she already had formed a panel of investigators to determine who should be held liable for the Mamasapano incident. She said her office inquiry is independent of the investigations being conducted by other agencies.

“We may look out the window and see the stars but not the moon [but] if our findings are comprehensive enough so be it, we are not going to the other agencies,” Morales said.

Purisima’s plea

Testifying on Wednesday in a separate inquiry of the House of Representatives into last month’s carnage, Purisima repeated that he did no wrong in keeping Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of the Interior and Local Government out of the loop on the Mamasapano operation.

“I could not be accused of breaking the chain of command,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “This does not exist in a civilian organization like the PNP.”

“The DILG and the secretary does not have control over the PNP, he is not part of the PNP command. Although Secretary Roxas is chair of the Napolcom (National Police Commission), it acts as a collegial body under the command and control of the PNP,” said Purisima.

Both Roxas and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP officer in charge, were not informed by Napeñas of the jump-off on Jan. 25.

Napeñas claimed he was told by Purisima after the Jan. 9 mission briefing with the President not to tell Roxas and Espina. Purisima earlier told the Senate he meant this as advice and not as an order. Napeñas also said he followed Purisima as a judgment call because he assumed that this had the tacit approval of the President.

In his explanation, Purisima had already delegated the control of the mission to the SAF director before his suspension.

“Under the chief PNP, once he delegates it, the commander assumes control… there is no need to inform DILG contrary… the command line of PNP was not broken. The force commander continued to exercise the delegated power of the chief PNP which was never affected by my preventive suspension, it did not prevent me from giving advice and input,” said Purisima.

Executive privilege

Purisima, however, was less candid about his communications with the President on the mission, claiming this was part of executive privilege.

Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer and Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, the chairs of the House committees conducting the inquiry, ruled that Purisima should be given time to consult with the President before giving his reply.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares moved that the President be summoned to the House probe next Tuesday and Wednesday due to Purisima’s refusal to lay bare the Chief Executive’s role in the mission planning even in executive session with House members. This was thumbed down by the majority. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Tetch Torres-Tupas, Inquirer.net

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TAGS: 44 SAF commandos, Alan Purisima, Bahay Pangarap, Edwin Lacierda, Leila de Lima, Maguindanao, Mamasapano, Philippine National Police, Purisima, SAF, Special Action Force
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