Aquino urged to stop simmering feud between Army, PNP SAF
MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino should “step in” to stop the simmering feud between the police and the military, which came to a head in the House of Representatives’ probe on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operations.
During the hearing Wednesday, the Special Action Force (SAF) commanders publicly accused the Army top brass of holding back artillery fire, which could have saved the SAF 44 just to save the peace process.
Magdalo Rep. Ashley Acedillo said that as Commander in Chief, it was the duty of the President to put an end to the public bickering between the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and avoid widening the divide and mistrust between the two.
“I believe that this is the time to step in. We cannot allow this situation to fester, the President must take the lead in healing the wounds by putting the police and the military in line,” said Acedillo in a phone interview.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano blamed fired SAF Director Getulio Napeñas for the worsening ties between the police and military as he continued to blame the AFP for the deaths of the SAF 44 in “an operation he himself planned and supervised.”
Alejano suggested that Napeñas just wait for the PNP and AFP to act on the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, the Senate and the Department of Justice on the individuals and the sanctions or charges to be levied against them.
In the April 8 hearing, Chief Supt. Noli Taliño , SAF deputy director, and Supt. Michael John Mangahis, the ground commanders for the SAF Mamasapano operation, accused Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, and his boss, Maj. General Edmundo Pangilinan, the 6th Infantry Division chief, of using the peace process as justification for not providing ground and artillery support to the 55th and 84th SAF companies that were pinned down by Moro rebels during the clash.
Acedillo said the House might move to resolve the conflicting accounts of the SAF and the Army during the executive session on Friday.
ACT-CIS Representative Samuel Pagdilao, a former police general, said the House could sort out the conflicting narratives “just by analyzing their statements in the hearings and comparing them with the physical evidence and comportment of witnesses during the investigation.”
Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, also a former police general, said that the AFP appeared to be changing its tune on what its officers provided under oath with the BOI on the reason for the delayed artillery fire to the SAF, which was requested as early as 7 a.m. on January 25 but the white phosphorus rockets were fired at 6 p.m. that same day.
Acop noted that under Article 233 of the Revised Penal Code, Pangilinan could face jail time and perpetual disqualification from office for “a public officer who, upon demand from competent authority, shall fail to lend his cooperation towards the administration of justice or other public service, if such failure shall result in serious damage to the public interest, or to a third party.”
Acop said that as head of the 6th Infantry Division, Pangilinan was the only one authorized to fire the Howitzers in the direction of the pinned down SAF units that could have saved their lives.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the BOI report was “littered with tell-tale signs of a stand down” order from the top. He cited Pangilinan’s order to hold artillery and facts that emerged during the hearing:
- Pangilinan fired white phosphorous at 6 p.m. on the same day even though the position of the SAF and hostiles were not yet determined;
- Helicopters were available but were not allowed to fly either for reinforcement or rescue;
- There was a lack of information on position of troops, civilians and armed groups;
- The detailed map of the SAF and the grid coordinates were available in the early morning; and,
- The DRC (Division Reconnaissance Company) was already a few hundred meters away from the pinned down SAF in the morning but were suddenly withdrawn.
Colmenares said the President should be made to account for the apparent stand-down order from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. as he was in control of operations. SFM/AC
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