DFA clears US of involvement in Mamasapano
Despite the reported sighting of a drone over Mamasapano as government security forces clashed with Moro rebels on Jan. 25, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday said the United States was not involved in the counterterrorism operation that left 44 elite police commandos dead.
At a Senate hearing, Foreign Undersecretary Evan Garcia also said all counterterrorism exercises in the country required the approval and consent of the Philippines through the Philippine-US Security Engagement Board (SEB).
Speaking to reporters after lunch with visiting Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister Miroslav Lajcak, Del Rosario said he looked into reports of US involvement in the Special Action Force (SAF) operation to take down Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and the Malaysian-born terrorist’s Filipino deputy, Basit Usman.
The reports said the United States trained the SAF commandos, provided surveillance assistance, and financed the operation.
“The bottom line is the planning of the operation is 100-percent Filipino, the execution is also 100-percent Filipino. So no US participation,” Del Rosario said.
He did not say, however, how he verified the reports or whether the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had information from the ground.
Del Rosario reiterated an earlier statement that the DFA saw no problem with other countries helping the Philippines in the fight against terrorism, which he described as a “scourge.”
He said the fight against terrorism was a “cooperative effort” among nations and assistance to the Philippines was welcome as long as it did not violate the Constitution.
Garcia said the SEB was set up to provide a mechanism for liaison and consultation on nontraditional security concerns, such as terrorism, transnational crimes, maritime security and disasters.
These are undertaken under the Visiting Forces Agreement, said Garcia, foreign undersecretary for policy.
“On the alleged American participation in Mamasapano, we respectfully defer to our colleagues for operational details. However, in our discussion with the United States, we have ascertained that the plan and execution were 100-percent Filipino,” he told senators at the resumption of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano debacle.
“The only constitutionally restricted activity in our cooperation with the US under our existing agreements is that they may not and have not—in the case of Mamasapano either—engaged in combat operations,” he later said.
Talk with Goldberg
In view of persistent reports about US role in the operation, Garcia said Del Rosario spoke with US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on the matter.
“And we have confirmed that there is no US involvement in the operation,” he said in response to a question from Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the committee on public order, the lead investigative panel. “The operation, as far as we can determine, was Filipino planned and implemented.”
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