CHURCH leaders and a Muslim civil society group have expressed support to President Duterte’s plan to reopen the investigation of the Mamasapano massacre that left 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) dead, saying that unresolved issues must be cleared, including the alleged participation of American forces in the botched operation.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles and Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez on Wednesday said the families of the fallen SAF 44 deserve to know the truth behind the massacre.
“There were inconsistencies in the whole tragic affair. Even the role of the US needs to be clarified,” said Arguelles, a former bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, in a statement posted in the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Earlier, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also called for a “full and satisfactory accounting” of the incident to the Filipino people.
He likewise pushed for the creation of a credible Truth Commission, independent of the other government-created probe bodies so as not to compromise the objectivity and result of the investigation on the failed Mamasapano operation.
During his four-day state visit to China recently, Duterte said that he may order a new probe on the incident adding that he wanted to know, among others, who got the $5-million reward for terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, whom the SAF troopers killed.
Similarly, Alan Balangi-Amer, president of 1Bangsa told The Manila Times that a full dress investigation should be conducted in order to give justice not only for the SAF troopers but also to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members who were also killed along with a score of civilians.
The bloody incident was secretly carried on January 25, 2015 in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano to capture Malaysian bomb maker Marwan, and other high-ranking terrorists.
While the troopers were able to kill Marwan also slain were MILF members together with its splinter group now called the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Balangi-Amer also said that the gruesome incident rekindled the division between Muslims and Christians.
“Just like the announcement of President Duterte it is but proper for the Filipino people to know if there are individuals who benefited out of the incident considering the millions of dollars allocated by the American government as a reward money for the head of Marwan,” Balangi-Amer stressed.
Following the botched operation, a US chopper was photographed loading some of the dead and wounded SAF members, raising the suspicion that American forces were present during the actual operation, but this was quickly denied by former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Gazmin said that US forces are prohibited by law to interfere in local conflicts or join any police or military operations, except in RP-US joint land, air or naval training, like the annual Balikatan Exercises, adding that “it is a normal practice whereby we ask assistance from the US forces to evacuate our wounded.”
But past incidents and a documents released by Wikileaks proved otherwise.
In May 2013, it was reported that a group of American soldiers were with Filipino troops when they were ambushed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Al Barka, Basilan that left a military official and an enlisted personnel dead and four other soldiers wounded.
During the Zamboanga siege, it was also reported that American soldiers assigned with the Joint Special Operation Task Force based in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City also joined the police and the military in flushing out members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in at least five coastal villages.
Earlier, Wikileaks also released a classified US information which showed that two US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives were embedded with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philipppines in Camp Navarro for a 90-day deployment period and thereafter request for an extension of duty. It said that the FBI agents made significant contributions to the mission’s counter-terrorism efforts.