Aquino on Duterte’s Mamasapano tirades: My only fault was to trust Napeñas
MANILA – Former president Benigno Aquino III on Thursday gave a point-by-point reply to the allegations hurled against him by President Rodrigo Duterte on his alleged failure to prevent the carnage in the botched Mamasapano anti-terrorist operation two years ago where Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was killed.
In a statement written in Filipino, Aquino said while he promised not to speak on the current administration for a year, he felt it was only right to respond to Duterte’s accusations.
Aquino answered seven points, but primarily emphasized that it was the insubordination of former Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas that led to the deaths of 44 of his men.
“Kung may kasalanan po ako bilang Pangulo nung panahong iyon, ito po: ni minsan, hindi pumasok sa isip kong magagawa ni Napeñas na magsinungaling sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas. Pinagkatiwalaan ko ang isang two-star police officer, na ako pa mismo ang nagpromote. Naniwala akong itong graduate ng PMA (Philippine Military Academy) ay tatalima sa values ng paaralan na ‘Courage, Integrity, Loyalty’,” Aquino said.
(If I had a fault as President at that time, it would be this: it never entered my mind that Napeñaas would lie to the President of the Philippines. I trusted a two-star police officer whom I promoted. I believed that this PMA graduate would adhere to the school’s values of “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty”.)
Aquino began his statement with an explanation of the concept of “pintakasi” in Mindanao, where in times of danger, people arm themselves against a community and engage state security forces.
Thirty-five commandos from the SAF 55th Special Action Company (SAC), which served as the blocking force for the 84th Seaborne were killed in a fierce firefight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces in a cornfield in Barangay Tukanalipao.
The village is an MILF community that should have been told of the operation, based on the ceasefire agreement between the government and the rebel group.
Napeñas failed to coordinate with the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), which has members from both the military and the MILF.
Aquino said that a similar pintakasi nearly happened in 2013 also in Maguindanao, but was prevented when the military’s mechanized units dispatched support to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“This concept is very clear to me, even before the briefing of Mr. Napeñas. This was the reason why when Mr. Napeñas presented to me Oplan: Exodus, where he said he would utilize 160 Seaborne operatives, who would encounter 3,000 potential armed enemies, the possibility of pintakasi immediately came to mind,” he said.
Aquino emphasized he directed Napeñas to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to prepare the mechanized units, artillery, aircraft, troops, and other assets needed to prevent a pintakasi.
Aquino said Napeñas acknowledged his directive.
“After the investigation, we found out there were no 160 Seaborne. There were only more than 70 of them and only 54 were operators,” Aquino said.
The former President recalled that Napeñas also told him that he would coordinate with the AFP when the SAF troops were already moving to the target, which Aquino said he disapproved.
“I told him that [the military] needs sufficient time to position all the assets and he replied, ‘Yes, sir’,” Aquino said.
“We all know what happened: the directive to coordinate what should have been ‘days before’ became ‘time after target,’ like what has been mentioned in the Senate Committee Report. Because there was no coordination, the AFP had to grapple with the necessary details they needed to know in order for them to provide assistance. I could not help but think: If my logical and legal instructions were followed, the Mamasapano tragedy would not have happened,” Aquino emphasized.
The following are the point-by-point reply of Aquino to President Duterte:
- Bakit ipinadala ang SAF (Why was the SAF sent out) when SAF is geared—organized and geared into the service to meet the challenges of urban terrorism?
Kahapon nga po, pinuntahan namin ang website ng PNP-SAF (http://pnp-saf.org.ph/index.php/about-us). Nakalagay sa umpisa pa lang sa mission statement ng SAF: “To conduct operations as a Rapid Deployment Force anywhere in the country specifically in situations with national and international implication in the areas of Hostage Rescue; Commando-Type Unconventional Warfare; Search and Rescue in times of calamities and disasters; Civil Disturbance Management during national emergency; and other special operations.”
(Yesterday, we visited the PNP-SAF website. The SAF’s mission statement was stated thus: “To conduct operations as a Rapid Deployment Force anywhere in the country specifically in situations with national and international implication in the areas of Hostage Rescue; Commando-Type Unconventional Warfare; Search and Rescue in times of calamities and disasters; Civil Disturbance Management during national emergency; and other special operations.”)
Idiin ko po ang: “anywhere in the country.”
(I emphasize: “anywhere in the country.”)
Klaro po, hindi limitado ang operasyon ng SAF sa urban areas. Sa SAF rin po, sa pagkakaalam ko, at batay na rin sa isang dating direktor nila, ang unang kursong tinuturo sa kanila ay tinatawag na commando course. Pang-counter insurgency po ito, at ang insurgency po natin, nasa rural areas.
(It’s clear, the operation of SAF is not limited to urban areas. In the SAF, as far as I know, and according to their former director, the first course taught to them is called commando course. This is for counter-insurgency, and insurgency in our country is in the rural areas.)
Dagdag ko pa po, ang briefing sa akin ni Napeñas, itong Seaborne ang elite sa elite ng mga pulis, na kasing husay ang training at kasing suportado ng pinaka-elite unit ng AFP na Light Reaction Regiment.
(In addition, in Napeñas’ briefing, the Seaborne unit consists of the most elite of the elite police, which is as highly trained and supported as the most elite AFP unit.)
- Bakit hindi ginamit ang Army? (Why wasn’t the Army utilized?)
Bukod sa nabanggit ko sa taas, dahil inutos kong makipag-coordinate, magiging AFP-PNP Joint Operation ang misyon sa Mamasapano.
(Aside from what I have mentioned, because I ordered for coordination, the Mamasapano mission would be a joint AFP-PNP operation.)
Ang PNP ang namuno sa operasyon dahil sila ang nakahanap ng tinatawag na actionable intelligence. Paalala ko lang rin po: Law enforcement operation ang pinapatupad natin dito, at inaaksyunan natin ang warrant of arrest kina Marwan at Usman. Alam po natin, PNP ang may police power at may tungkuling ipatupad ang arrest warrant.
(The PNP led the operation because they are the ones who found what is called actionable intelligence. A reminder: This was a law enforcement operation, and we are acting on the warrant of arrest on Marwan and Usman, We know that PNP has the police power and has the duty to implement the arrest warrant.)
- Ano ang naging papel ng US sa operasyon? (What was the role of the US in the operation?)
Wala po akong Amerikanong nakausap ukol sa operasyon bago ito maisagawa at habang ito’y isinasagawa sa Mamasapano. Sa pagkakaunawa ko po, tumulong ang Estados Unidos doon sa equipment at hardware na pinanggalingan ng intelligence.
(I had not talked to an American about the operation before and during its course in Mamasapano. From what I understand, the US helped with the equipment and hardware used for intelligence.)
Bago pa man ang panahon ko, tumutulong na ang Estados Unidos sa ating mga operasyon. Ang sa akin, Pilipino ang mga kausap ko. Pilipino ang nagbibigay-ulat sa akin, at Pilipino ang nagsagawa ng misyon. Ultimong asset na nakalapit kina Marwan, asset ng ating gobyerno.
(Even prior to my time as president, the US had been helping in our operations. As for me, I was talking to a Filipino. It was a Filipino who reported to me, and it was a Filipino who did the mission. Even the asset closest to Marwan was an asset of our government.)
- Si Ging Deles daw ang nagpigil sa akin na magpadala ng air assets: (It was Ging Deles who stopped me from sending air assets:)
Bago ang lahat, wala po yatang kinalaman si Secretary Ging Deles sa naging misyon dahil iyon po ay isang law enforcement operation.
(First of all, Secretary Ging Deles has no involvement in the mission because it was a law enforcement operation.)
Sinasabi pang makakaapekto daw sa peace process sa MILF. Fact po: MILF counterpart pa nga ang unang nagsabi kay Gen. Galvez, ang GPH-CCCH chairman, ukol sa bakbakan sa Mamasapano.
(It was said that it would affect the peace process ith the MILF. Fact: It was the MILF counterpart who first told Gen. Galvez, GPH-CCCH chairman, about the Mamasapano clash.)
- So why did you enter into an operation which was really placing in jeopardy [their] lives, because at the end of the day, you would have decided not to send anymore?
Mali po ang premise na papapasukin ko sila at bahala na sila sa buhay nila. May mga testigo, kung saan idiniin kong dapat makipag-coordinate ang PNP sa AFP, at ang koordinasyon, dapat ilang araw bago ipatupad ang operasyon.
(The premise that I would let them go to the mission and leave them to fend for themselves is wrong. There are witnesses who can attest to my insistence that coordination with PNP and AFP are needed and that the coordination should be done days before the operation.)
Delikado sina Marwan at Usman—gumagawa sila ng mga IED na makakapinsala ng napakaraming Pilipino. Si Marwan mismo, sangkot sa Bali bombing nung 2002.
(Marwan and Usman are a threat–they make IEDs that could harm many Filipuinos. Marwan himself was involved in the 2012 Bali bombing.)
Kung nangyari ang mga inutos ko na koordinasyon, kung naihanda sana ang lahat ng tulong na maaaring ibigay ng AFP para sa SAF, hindi dapat malalagay sa peligro ang buhay ng ating mga pulis.
(If the coordination I asked for was done, if all the reinforcements were given by AFP to SAF, the lives of the police should not have been put in danger.)
Sagutin ko na rin po nang minsanan, sa usaping “Kung ikaw ang nandoon, ano ang dapat gawin?” na sinabi ni President Duterte. Nung nasa Zamboanga kami, sinabihan akong pagabi na; mahihirapan nang mag-link up ang mga tropa; at bukas na lang itutuloy ang pagsaklolo sa kanila. Doon ako sumagot: “Kung ikaw ang nandoon, okay ba sa iyo yan? Buong araw na silang nakikipagbakbakan; malamang wala na silang bala. Gamitin ninyo lahat ng assets. Ituloy ito at i-rescue sila. Ang minimum na ireport ninyo sa akin, na-resupply sila.”
(I will also answer once and for all the question: If you were in that position, what would you do?” which President Duterte asks. When we were in Zamboanga, I was told that night was approaching and that we would find it hard to link up with the troops and to just continue rescuing them the next day. I answered: If you were there, would you have been fine with that? They have been in combat the whole day, they most likely are out of ammunition. Use all the assets. Continue rescuing them. The least you can report to me is that they have been resupplied.)
Inatasan ko ang mga opisyal ng AFP at PNP na gawin ang lahat para sa objective nilang mailigtas ang SAF.
(I ordered the AFP and PNP officials to do all they could with the objective of saving the SAF.)
- Sa kung sino ang nakatanggap ng 5 million dollars na reward mula sa US: (On who received a $5-million reward from the US:)
Hindi po natin masabi, dahil hindi naman po natin reward ito. Sa totoo lang ho, hindi na rin tayo nakialam sa reward.
(I cannot say because it was not our reward. Truth be told, we had no involvement in the reward.)
- Bakit dadalawa lang ang nabigyan ng PNP Medal of Valor? (Why were there only two recipients of the PNP Medal of Valor?)
Ang paggawad po ng mga parangal na ito ay dumadaan sa isang proseso; nakabase ito sa rekomendasyon ng isang board ng PNP. Nabanggit naman po ni Pangulong Duterte na muli niyang pinapaaral ang paggawad ng Medal of Valor para sa lahat ng SAF na nasawi. Pareho naman ang prosesong pinagdaanan namin; kung may makita siyang paraan para mabigyan ang lahat, sang-ayon kami rito.
(The conferment of the medal goes through a process, this is based on the recommendation of a PNP board. It was mentioned by President Duterte that they have called for the study of the conferment of the Medal of Valor for all fallen SAF. We went through the same process, if he finds a way to give the award to all of them, we will agree with that.) CDG
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