Issues the public would much like settled about SAF 44


So the re-opening of the Senate hearing on the SAF 44 massacre is pushing through after all, set for January 25. I got this text message from the Office of the Vice President Communication Team that General Getulio Napenas, the sacked commander of the slain PNP commandos, welcomes the development, and that’s for obvious reasons. Aside from the 44 brave elite police combatants who died fighting to the last man in a day-long gun battle with MILF troops, General Napenas has been the only other casualty on the government side of the tragic incident in Mamasapano, Mangindanao. He was relieved forever from service as a consequence. Certainly resumption of the Upper House investigation of the Mamasapano carnage affords him the chance to speak up further, say things otherwise left unsaid in the initial rounds of investigation, thereby enabling him to push his personally-imposed mission of seeking justice for the fallen SAF 44. [But the Aquino forces in the House reopend hearing would of course move to turn it into a means for delivering a report that absolves him from any blame.]

For this column, a number of concerns must be addressed.

One is a news report that appeared in California, USA, in which a certain lawyer came forward, claiming the bounty of $5 million on the head of international terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan. According to this lawyer, he was the one who provided the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the information that Marwan was hiding in Maguindanao. The report said that on the basis of the lawyer’s information, the FBI crafted Oplan Exodus, the execution of which on January 25, 2015 resulted in the killing of Marwan, all right, but almost just as soon in the mass slaughter of SAF 44.

From the Senate proceedings in its initial investigation, what appears is that the operations to get Marwan was initiated by the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Apparently an informant tipped off Marwan’s whereabouts to the regional government, which in turn coordinated the matter with the Regional Director for Intelligence of the PNP Special Action Command in Zamboanga. From that point on, the operations for the capture of Marwan became a call by the PNP SAF – or that was how subsequent events would indicate.

But, as in every intelligence operation, an informant is never identified. It is precisely the secrecy of his identity that makes an informant useful. For this reason, we can never be certain whether an informant is a person, a syndicate, or, indeed, the world’s top investigative body, the FBI. Several facts indicate the last-named category as most likely.

First of all, you need a large organization like the FBI to be able to put up the huge amount of $5 million for Marwan’s head. Then there’s the denomination of the bounty, which is a tell-tale sign of which country in the world was particularly interested to get Marawan. Certain high technology involved in the operation likewise betrayed US machination in the undertaking. For instance, when after three big operations to bag Marwan failed and General Alan Purisima, then still Director General of the Philippine National Police, reportedly finally decided to bombard Marwan’s hideout, the highly special bomb that alone could be used in the operation was available only in the US.

The extent of US involvement in the massacre of SAF 44 can be unraveled in a no-nonsense investigation by the Senate.

Another concern of this column is a “friendly fire” scenario relayed to me by my own informant. According to this scenario, the massacre of the SAF 44 was a trade-in for the death of Marwan. The information strikes me as incredible. But my informant insists on a Muslim tradition whereby if you ask for the blood of a brethren, you must be ready to shed equal blood of your own.

I still would not buy the idea. Granting the tradition were true, still the equation is too lopsided to be true. 44 elite SAF commandos against just 1 of Marwan! Indeed, counters my informant, it’s lopsided in Marwan’s disfavor: he is equivalent to 200. I gape at the equation. That’s how many Marwan had been accused of killing in the Bali terror bombings in 2002.

And my informant proceeds to propound questions. For instance, if there was a shootout resulting in Marwan’s death, how did Marwan’s girl partner escaped injury? What happened to Marwan’s corpse?

The more questions he asked, the more inclined I became to believe him. Those questions certainly evoke imageries of past tragedies perpetrated by Muslim rebels that fit into the “trade-in” scenario revealed by my informant. But this should be a matter for my column next Saturday when we can elaborate on the subject unhampered by space limitations.


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