Ramos to Napeñas: Don’t be the scapegoat
MANILA, Philippines–Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Saturday said Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked commander of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), should stop blaming himself for the Mamasapano debacle and instead throw the “real blame” at higher officials.
From the start, the former SAF chief has taken full responsibility for the operation during which 44 police commandos were killed in gun battles with guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Speaking at ceremonies in Intramuros marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila, Ramos said Napeñas was “being made a scapegoat.”
“He’s brave enough as a patriot and as SAF commander to accept the blame. But maybe he should stop blaming himself and put the real blame on higher officials. Pity the SAF,” Ramos said.
Earlier, Ramos took off his barong Tagalog to show a shirt bearing a message dedicated to the 44 SAF troopers killed in Mamasapano and donned a beret with the SAF insignia before starting his speech.
Ramos was cofounder of the SAF, which was set up in 1983 under the then Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP).
Napeñas has admitted that he did not inform the officer in charge of the PNP, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas about the SAF operation to take down international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and the Malaysian-born bomb expert’s Filipino deputy, Abdul Basit Usman.
Ramos said that the Constitution clearly states that the President is the Commander in Chief of all state armed forces and the civilian government.
“I said it before, there are many chains of command—military, police, civilian, NGO, the media. The military [chain of command] is a bit different from the PNP chain of command, but both have one characteristic—the President is the Commander in Chief,” Ramos said.
“As military Commander in Chief, his chain of command goes down to the chief of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines]. The secretary of defense is just an alter ego. Same with the interior secretary [and the chief of the PNP]. They cannot order operations unless delegated by the President,” he said.
Together all day
Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, AFP chief of staff, was not informed about the SAF operation.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was also not told about the operation, but he and Roxas told a Senate hearing on Thursday that they heard about the Mamasapano clash in the morning of Jan. 25 but did not tell President Aquino about it in Zamboanga City, where they were together throughout that day, because they did not know what was really happening.
Aquino and the Cabinet officials traveled to Zamboanga that day to visit the survivors of a car bomb explosion in the city on Jan. 23 and inspect the blast site.
But Ramos said that as head of the civilian government, President Aquino could have called a barangay (village) councilman in Mamasapano to ask what was going on.
Aquino learned what was going on from Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the AFP’s Western Command, during a briefing in Zamboanga that afternoon.
At that time, the 44 SAF commandos were already dead. They had been pinned down in a cornfield by MILF guerrillas but their calls for reinforcements had gone without response.
Ramos said that whether Aquino was in Zamboanga to sympathize with the victims of the bomb explosion—who he said were “very few”—or for a “future purpose,” only he knew.
But the security officials who were with him should have immediately told him about the fighting in Mamasapano, Ramos said.
“That should be the immediate approach if they know their beans,” he said. “If not, they should go back to civilian life.”
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.