A week after he publicly credited the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) for killing terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, President Benigno Aquino 3rd was not as kind to the commandos’ former leader, Getulio Napenas, who he still blamed for the deaths of his men.
Aquino, in an interview aired over ANC, even chastised Napenas for “insubordination” and for being “unprofessional” in handling Oplan: Exodus last January 25 in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province.
“There are still other questions. And it all said Napeñas’ activities on that particular day.
First and foremost to my mind is the issue of insubordination. And suddenly, my warnings to them were proven. And actually I don’t know if warning is a correct word. It might be a reminder because he did operate as the regional public safety battalion [commander]in that area and presumably he would know the terrain, would know all of the people,” the President told program host and veteran broadcast journalist Tina Monzon-Palma.
“When I’m given all of the details of these plans… Well, the execution of the plans versus the plans as presented to me is a very, how should I put it, very unprofessional conduct of it. You know, I’m kind of hesitant to answer all of these questions because there is a pending investigation and anybody that will investigate will suddenly say, ‘The Commander-in-Chief, the Chief Executive already made all of these pronouncements…,’” Aquino said.
The President earlier pinned the blame on the former SAF director in a previous televised address earlier this year while being cautious in dragging the name of his friend, resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima, who managed Oplan: Exodus while under preventive suspension.
At one point during the interview, Aquino recalled having been told by SAF operatives that Napenas forced himself on them when the operation details were being discussed.
“Even when the operators were talking to Director Napeñas, there was an assertion that
there was very serious debate about the plan as conceptualized and he stopped the debate somehow or stopped the discussions,” he said.
The “debate” was between Napenas and those who carried out the operation belonging to SAF Company 55, which suffered the biggest number of casualties.
Aquino said he does not want the same mistake to be committed, adding, “I want the lessons completely learned.”
“You know, the dictum of ‘fool me once, shame on you, and fool me twice, shame on me,’ is something I really believe in,” he pointed out.
Regarding Purisima, the President said he has not talked with him for “quite sometime” but insisted that it was Napenas who had a lot to answer for.
“So why is it that the entry and the exit are both the same route? Shouldn’t you exit through a different path? In fact in the presentation to me of the plan of ‘Exodus,’ they were entering one side, they have two exit routes planned on the opposite side. Now, when we interviewed the supporting cast … they were in the line of march, the original line of march, the entry route was what they were supposed to be guarding,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Aquino admitted that he deliberately skipped the arrival horns for the SAF 44 at Villamor Air Base days after the massacre. For the first time, he said, his absence was borne out of a “conscious decision.”
“For the record, The bodies arrived on Thursday and I made a conscious decision not to attend. And primarily because I wanted to afford them some space to grieve because I wanted to start the healing process also with them that’s why I did it the following day and I think at least on two occasions basically to get them, to restart their lives. To do everything that government can to restart their lives, or to help their lives,” the President added.
On the issue of reward, Aquino said one individual stands to receive millions after thorough evaluation by the US government and local officials.
“The Americans are almost done with their processing. I understand [that there is]just one male claimant. I will have to inquire on whether or not we have afforded, we have given our rewards also,” he added.
The President, however, did not name the claimant.