Senator finds resigned PNP chief’s testimony unbelievable
Sen. Grace Poe is not convinced that resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima told the whole truth when he appeared at the Senate on Monday, the start
of the chamber’s inquiry into the Mamasapano incident.
The senator, who heads the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said Purisima’s testimony was “unbelievable.”
“Alam mo, may mga ibang panauhin tayo dito na nag-attend nga ng hearing, at least nag-attend, pero alam naman nating hindi buong katotohanan ang mga sinasabi [You know, there are some resource persons who attend hearings, at least they attend, but we know that they do not tell us the whole truth],” Poe said.
She noted that she found it hard to believe Purisima’s statement that he did not order suspended Special Action Force Director Getulio Napeñas not to inform PNP officer-in charge Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd about the operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
“Hindi ba merong mga hindi dun kapani-paniwala, halimbawa, sa sabi nga nya it was just an advice, not a command [He was saying some things that were unbelievable, for example, that he was giving only advice, not command, on the operation],” the senator said.
Napeñas told senators that Purisima participated in pre-operation meetings on Oplan Exodus to capture suspected terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan even after the Office of the Ombudsman suspended him.
Purisima admitted as much on Monday when he said he participated in two pre-operation meetings held at the PNP “White House,” the official residence of the PNP chief, inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Pressed by Senate President Franklin Drilon about his involvement in Oplan Exodus, the former police chief claimed that he was there just to listen to the plan and did not talk or give instructions to the police officials in the meeting.
“So, in those meetings, which lasted 30 minutes each, you just shut your mouth?” Drilon asked Purisima, who replied that he may have raised his observations on the plan but gave no instructions.
Purisima earlier claimed that he was never involved in the Mamasapano operation to capture Marwan.
Napenas, however, belied Purisima’s claims at the Senate hearing, saying Purisima was the one who told the SAF director not to inform Roxas and Espina about the operation. He added that Purisima gave the instructions after their meeting with President Benigno Aquino 3rd in Malacañang, where he, together with Intelligence officer Chief Supt. Fernando Mendez, briefed the President about Oplan Exodus.
Purisima reportedly told Napenas: “Huwag mo muna sabihan ‘yung dalawa saka na pag nandoon na, ako na bahala kay [Gregorio] Catapang [Don’t inform the two yet until the troops are in the area, I will take care of Catapang].”
Catapang is Armed Forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang.
Napeñas admitted that he followed Purisima’s order despite knowing that the latter was not in the chain of command at the time on account of his suspension because it was Purisima who had the intelligence packet and “he was the one consulted by the President.”
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd asked Purisima about his motivation in telling Napenas not to inform Roxas and Espina about the operation, but the former police chief insisted that he was just giving Napeñas advice, not order.
Purisima said he was just following what was written in the plan that coordination will be time-on-target, meaning they will inform other officials when the raiding team is already in the area.
But Poe said it is difficult to believe that Purisima was only giving advice to Napeñas because even if he was under suspension, the SAF commander still sees him as a man of authority.
“This is the reason why the committee has asked for copies of the exchanges of text messages between Purisima and Napeñas for us to determine when and what are his messages to the SAF commander,” the senator said.
“There are still a lot of things that we need to look into like the text messages between Purisima and Napeñas, how was the operation funded, and who ordered the operation,” she added
Oplan Exodus is the PNP’s third attempt to capture Marwan, after two failed missions, called “Oplan Terminator” 1 and 2, last November and December.
Napeñas said Oplan Terminator 1 was launched on November 29, 2014, but it was aborted because of equipment failure while the arresting team was en route to the target.
Oplan Terminator 2 was launched using tactical boats but it was also borted after the assault team met and engaged a lawless group in a firefight along the river in Barangay Tukalanipao, Mamasapano.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is convinced that the chain of command was violated when Napenas decided to heed Purisima’s advice to keep Roxas and Espina in the dark.
He said while Purisima claimed that it was just advice, not order, that he was giving the SAF director, the fact that the President allowed the suspended PNP chief to join the briefing in Malacañang means that he is included in the chain of command.
“What did Purisima and President Aquino talk about? If it’s about the mission, then it would mean that he was recognized by the President that he is still included in the chain of command,” Marcos pointed out.
It is clear that Purisima was in the loop and Espina is not, and this could send strong signs that the former PNP head was included in the chain of command during the Mamasapano operation, he said.