Napeñas laments anti-SAF stories
What’s the objective behind the recently emerging new details, or versions, of the Mamasapano debacle?
Getulio Napeñas, former head of the Special Action Force (SAF), posed this question, as he dismissed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reports that a “Caucasian” was killed in the Jan. 25 police operation in Maguindanao province and that international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” was killed by his aides, not the SAF commandos.
Sought for comment, the former SAF commander maintained in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday: “There was no other nationality, foreigner, or American … involved in the combat operations. And I stand by that. I know my men who went there.”
Napeñas pointed out that the rumor about a Caucasian being killed in Mamasapano had surfaced before. He explained that it might be because two of the slain SAF troopers had Caucasian-like features: PO2 Romeo Cempron and PO4 Noel Golocan.
Asked who were behind the video, he said, “There’s only one possibility, and they are people out to discredit the SAF.”
“Of course, the MILF. They want public acceptance because of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),” Napeñas said. “Now, if they think they could do this to get the BBL approved in Congress, I think, they are making a mistake.”
The surfacing of the video followed a report, also from unnamed MILF sources, that it was Marwan’s aides, not the SAF, who killed the terrorist.
The report, in turn, came in the wake of a statement made by President Aquino in a forum with the Inquirer last week that there may be an “alternative version” of the events in Mamasapano.
The elite Philippine National Police team lost 44 men in the Jan. 25 operation when they got caught in a firefight with the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the area. Survivors, as quoted by the Philippine National Police board of inquiry who looked into the matter, earlier said Marwan was killed in his hut in a firefight with the SAF strike force. The commandos managed to cut off a finger for DNA identification.
Napeñas was relieved of his post following the bloody operation.
Napeñas said it was “painful” that the SAF’s accomplishment taking out Marwan was now being belied by MILF claims “without proof or basis.”
“Isn’t that a slap on our faces? It’s an insult, painful for us, not only the SAF but for the entire PNP,” he said.
“Those who could speak about bullet trajectory, entry and exit wounds are the forensics experts who have the knowledge, training and experience,” Napeñas said.
Napeñas also pointed out that the PNP, Senate, House of Representatives and Department of Justice had investigated the Mamasapano debacle.
“There was nothing about that. Then suddenly the MILF spoke. It is a slap on the Philippine investigative agencies, a slap on the whole Philippine nation by the MILF. All the investigating agencies are being discredited by the MILF statement that is without basis,” Napeñas said.
“After how many months did they put this out? What is their objective? The SAF is being discredited, the entire nation,” he said.
Napeñas said he “welcomed” any new investigation into the Mamasapano incident.
“We welcome that because we have only one truth,” he said. “Most importantly, they should bring out witnesses and evidence of these so-called alternate versions or alternative truths. The burden of proof is on them.”
Asked about the video of the purported Caucasian fatality, the PNP spokesman, Supt. Wilben Mayor, maintained: “A series of investigations were made relative to the incident in Mamasapano. Unless contrary evidence will be presented, its findings stand.”
The executive summary of the report of the PNP board on Mamasapano, released in March, stated: “The US was involved in the intelligence operations and medical evacuations. No US personnel/troops were involved in the actual combat operation. The US supported the operation by providing technical support to enhance monitoring of the troops on the ground. They were also involved in the identification of Marwan through DNA analysis.”
In Zamboanga City, an elite police commander, whose men were among those killed in the Mamasapano clash, said witnesses should corroborate the “alternative version” claim on the incident.
“They should come out with witnesses,” Supt. Reynald Arino, commanding officer of the 5th Special Action Force Battalion, said in Zamboanga City.
Of the 44 SAF commandos killed, 35 were Arino’s men.
He maintained that Marwan was killed by SAF commandos.
“We have pieces of evidence from start to finish. Those claiming otherwise should better present witnesses,” Arino said.
Marilyn Tayrus, one of the sisters of slain Senior Insp. Reiner Tayrus, said it appeared the claim about an “alternative version” of the Mamasapano tragedy was being made to cover up the lapses made by top officials.
“(President Aquino’s) alternative version that MILF (forces) and not the SAF killed Marwan worsened our pains,” she said.
“I don’t know what (Aquino) wants to bring out,” she added.
Marilyn dismissed as “nonsense” the reported MILF claim that Marwan was killed by his aides. She said all the widows and relatives of the slain SAF troopers want is justice.—With a report from Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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