The Daily Manila Shimbun


Aquino said he never talked to any American regarding Mamasapano operation

January 26, 2017

Former President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday that he never talked to any American before and while the anti-terrorism operation in Maguindanao took place two years ago, leaving 60 people, including 44 police commandos, dead.

But he said the United States, from his understanding, has been helping the Philippines, even prior to his administration, on equipment, hardware and as source of intelligence.

"Even before my time, the United States has already been helping in our operation. On my part, I was talking to Filipino. It's a Filipino who'd been reporting to me, and it's Filipino who made the mission. Even the asset who was able to get near to Marwan (Zulkifli bin Hir) was an asset of our government," Aquino said.

Aquino made the explanation to debunk President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that the operation against Marwan on January 25, 2015 was done by the Central Intelligence Agency of the US.

Aquino said he had to break his promise not to talk about the Duterte administration for about a year.

He stood by his statement that it was former Special Action Force commander Getulio Napenas who defied his order to coordinate the operation with the military.

He said when Napenas presented Oplan Exodus where he would use 160 seaborne operatives to face 3,000 potential armed enemies, he ordered him to coordinate with the military to prepare mechanized units, artillery, aircraft and other assets to prevent  carnage.

Napenas agreed to his order but only to find out during an investigation following the incident only more than 70 joined the operation, he said.

Aquino said he also declined Napenas’ proposed coordination with the military would happen when the SAF were moving.

"I could not help but think that if this logical and legal order was followed, the Mamasapano tragedy could not have happened," Aquino said.

He said he never thought Napenas, whom he promoted, would lie on the president of the Philippines.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II dared Aquino to submit his mobile phone to forensic examination if he wants to prove his claim.

Aguirre said he believes Aquino was lying and should be covered by the investigation by an independent commission as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this week.

“He (Aquino) said he never gave instructions to then suspended PNP Chief General (Alan) Purisima. That is a lie. He was on top of the situation. He knows what is going on," Aguirre said.

“If he is telling the truth, he allow the forensic examination of his mobile phone,” Aguirre added.

Aguirre assailed Aquino for insisting liability should end with Napeñas.

“He was always saying that [it was Napeñas’ fault]. But he is the one telling a lie,” said Aguirre, who was his lawyer in earlier inquiries.

Aquino also answered Duterte's observation of why it was SAF, which was trained in urban warfare, that conducted the operation.

According to the website of PNP-SAF, he said its troopers could 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.”

On Duterte's question why the Army did not launch the operation, Aquino said it was supposed to be a joint military and police operation and the PNP had to lead it because it was the one that was able to get "actionable intelligence."

He also reminded it was a law enforcement operation based on the warrants of arrest against Marwan and and Filipino terrorist, Basit Usman. Marwan was killed in the operation, while Basit escaped and was killed in another operation.

Aquino also defended former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, whom Duterte accused of stopping the former president from ordering reinforcement from the military.

He said Deles had nothing to do with the mission since it was a law enforcement operation. It  was actually the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front that told the head of a ceasefire committee from the government side about the encounter in Mamasapano.

On Duterte's criticism on Aquino asking the opinion of a general when they were in Zamboanga on what should be done, the former president clarified he ordered all military and police officials to do everything to rescue all SAF members.

As to the $5 million reward of the US for Marwan's neutralization, he said he did not meddle because it was not a government reward.

As to why only two slain SAF members were awarded the Medal of Valor, Aquino said all the 44 underwent the processes and it was up to the recommendation of the PNP Board.

Aquino said if Duterte could find ways to give the award to all the slain SAF, he would agree. Celerina Monte/DMS