Gazmin: AFP didn’t favor peace talks over SAF lives
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Saturday said the police board of inquiry was mistaken when it concluded that an Army general prioritized the peace agreement over the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were killed in a clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
“I don’t think that was the right assumption, that the military gave more importance to the peace process as against providing reinforcement to the policemen,” Gazmin told reporters after he addressed graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here.
Gazmin objected to the finding that Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, withheld artillery support requested by the Philippine National Police because a military action would disrupt the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
By the time military help arrived, all but one member of the 55th Special Action Company were already dead.
Gazmin said the military had to follow protocol.
“We were very much concerned about protocols as well as the safety of people who were in need of support,” Gazmin said.
Asked how he felt about being left out of the loop on the SAF operation, Gazmin said, “Considering that it was a police operation, I was not supposed to be involved.”
The board of inquiry report took into account the position of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the coordination protocol used by the PNP when it deployed the SAF troopers before informing Army units in the area about the operation was “alien” to the military.
“Without coordination, following the AFP definition, support to operating units such as artillery or close air support is not possible since these entail preparations,” the report said.
Gazmin made no reference to the controversy when he addressed the PMA cadets, except to say that the graduating cadets would infuse “idealism and dynamism in the officer corps of the Armed Forces…” at a moment of many serious challenges to our profession of arms.”
He did not elaborate.
Gazmin led the awards ceremony for the top performing members of PMA Class of 2015, among them Cadet First Class Genesis Dizon, the second highest ranking cadet of the class.
Dizon received the Academics Group Award, which earned him the Vice Presidential Saber, the Humanities Plaque, the Spanish Armed Forces Award for sociohumanistic subjects, and the Australian Defense Best Overall Performance Award for service-oriented and English language subjects.
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