‘US violated no treaty’
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Saturday said he believed the United States had nothing more to explain regarding its role in the counterterrorism operation in Maguindanao province last year that left 44 Filipino police commandos dead.
Speaking in a radio interview, Drilon said the US role in “Oplan Exodus,” the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) covert operation to take down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was part of the cooperation among countries fighting terrorism.
“We can’t act on this alone. Intelligence sharing is one thing where all countries cooperate. This is war on terrorism,” Drilon said.
The United States offered a $5-million reward for the capture of Marwan, a suspect in the 2002 bomb attacks on two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people, including seven Americans.
Marwan was killed in Oplan Exodus, but nine members of the strike force, the 84th Special Action Company (SAC), and 35 members of the 55th SAC, which served as the blocking force for the mission, were also killed in gun battles with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015.
Seventeen fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and three civilians also died in the daylong fighting.
Enrile wants explanation
Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said at a hearing on the Mamasapano clash on Wednesday that the government should explain why it allowed US participation in the SAF mission to capture Marwan, which he said was a law enforcement matter.
Enrile wanted to know whether the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) or any other agreement was used as a basis for the US cooperation in the SAF mission.
He pointed out that the VFA covered only military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, and it did not cover law enforcement, which involved criminal laws.
Criminal laws are strictly territorial, with few exceptions, he said.
In his radio interview on Saturday, Drilon said the US role in Oplan Exodus did not violate any agreements between the Philippines and the United States.
No US base was set up in the Philippines for the Mamasapano operation so the Constitution was not violated, Drilon said.
“There was nothing violated in our treaty with America [or] under the Constitution,” he said.
Former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas explained at the hearing on Wednesday that the United States was cooperating with the SAF because the force was the counterterrorism unit of the PNP.
Napeñas said the United States through the Zamboanga-based Joint Task Force Philippines trained the 84th SAC, provided real-time intelligence information to strike force during the operation, helped to evacuate the dead and wounded after the clash, and conducted DNA identification of the slain Marwan.
Transcripts of discussions during closed-door sessions of the Senate Mamasapano investigation released last week showed that the United States provided an “intelligence surveillance reconnaissance” plane to locate the 84th SAC, whose members were carrying a finger of Marwan that they had cut off after killing him for DNA testing.
The US tracking helped a Philippine Army unit locate and rescue the 84th SAC commandos.
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