LIKE the millions of our fellow Filipinos, I am very much affected by the deaths of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops who were involved in a covert police operation in Maguindanao to arrest two notorious terrorists involved in deadly bombings. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) puts the death toll of the SAF members higher at 64, which is more disturbing because it is 20 more deaths among the nation’s supposedly elite police force.
So many SAF troops did not have to die in the performance of their duties. Their demise was unnecessary. I deeply condole with the families of the fallen heroes who died last Sunday and share their pain and grief. It is for this reason why I am writing this article: Justice for them!
Two things happened for the first time in the history of the Philippine National Police (PNP), including its precursor, the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), as the fiasco of Oplan Wolverine unfolded. First, it was the first time that a major police operation did not pass through the PNP chain of command. Second, the number of fatalities – 44 or 64 – of the SAF commandos is the biggest in police history.
Oplan Wolverine, the name given to the special police operation to capture the terrorists, Marwan (Malaysian) and Usman (Filipino), was prepared by the Office of the Director of Intelligence (DI) of the PNP as early as 2011. The plan was later endorsed by the Office of the PNP Chief Alan Purisima during the same year to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. for “additional support.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 29, 2015)
In the beginning, “all operations related to the plan were jointly undertaken by the PNP and the military (AFP),” the Inquirer reported. The plan was not revised even after the suspension of Purisima last year by the Office of the Ombudsman on charges of corruption. When the covert police operation was finally implemented last Sunday, January 25, it involved the deployment of 392 United States-trained SAF troops.
Bypass of PNP chain of command
What is astonishing with Oplan Wolverine, which involved close to 400 elite police commandos, is that SAF Commander Getulio Napeñas did not inform his superior, PNP Deputy Director General and Officer-in-Charge Leonardo A. Espina, let alone seek his approval of their operation in Maguindanao to arrest the two most wanted terrorists. The FBI has put $6.0 million and $3.0 million rewards, respectively, for their capture.
Police Director Napeñas, who has the equivalent rank of a two-star general in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, admitted last Tuesday that he did not coordinate with the military before the launch of the failed SAF operation of the PNP. This is rather curious because the SAF commander knew that their area of operations in Mamasapano town has been under the control of the MILF with their three base camps there: the 105th, 106th and the 118th.
The SAF chief explained that it was a “command decision – I decided that it was best not to inform the other units of the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines about the plan of initiating the actual assault.” He added that it was a “judgement call (on his part) and will take full responsibility” for his action. His justification for his decision is that “we had been working on it for a long time (since 2013).” (Inquirer, Jan 29, 2015)
In an interview last Wednesday with ANC News on the same day as the delivery of the speech of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, PNP Officer-in-Charge Espino remarked that he was informed of Oplan Wolverine “after the fact.” This is consistent with the revelation of Police Director Napeñas that he first informed Espina through a text message about their operation at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. Napeñas later made a call to his superior after the text.
In his own words, the SAF Commander told the PNP Officer-in-Charge that the “operation against Marwan was under way.” And true enough it was “after the fact:” Napeñas told Espina that “we were already there and the troops were already deployed.” The 392 commandos were positioned and divided into groups as early as 3:00 a.m! It was at 4:20 a.m. when the assault team entered the nipa hut where Marwan was sleeping.
Thus, it is confirmed by Police Director Nepañes himself that he did not coordinate with the military (AFP) and also did not inform his own superior: the PNP Chief. So what really made him launch Oplan Wolverine with its pyrrhic success that cost the lives of at least 44 SAF commandos, if not 64 as estimated by no less than the MILF?
Why did he take the bold initiative which may now also cost him his successful career with the PNP?
Who gave the Mission Order?
My wife and I watched the speech of President B. S. Aquino 3rd last Wednesday. As expected, it was very disappointing. PNoy did not say much that we already didn’t know based on what had been reported in the newspapers. The only added value was the “context” of the operations of SAF in serving the outstanding warrants of arrest for Marwan and Usman on accusations that they were terrorist-bombers. He elaborated on the terrorist activities of Marwan, starting with the Bali bombings in 2002 that killed more than 200 persons.
President B.S. Aquino 3rd is really good in not telling the truth. After four years and seven months in office, he now appears to be an expert on presidential prevarications.
The Big Question that he did NOT answer in his speech and the open forum with the press is, who gave the Mission Order for the SAF operations in Maguindanao in Mindanao?
A day or two before the presidential speech last Wednesday, PNP Officer-in-Charge Espina revealed that Oplan Wolverine has not reached the “Command Group.” In short, nobody up in the chain of command in the PNP knew about it. Yet, during the open forum, PNoy prevaricated when journalists asked him if he gave the order to execute the police operation. He equivocated with his reply to effectively mean he did not!
So who really gave the Mission Order for the special operations of the SAF involving 392 commandos to proceed? How could an operation involving almost 400 elite police troops not pass through the PNP Chain of Command? Not even the Secretary of the Department of Interior & Local Government (DILG) knew about it!
In spite of his claim to the contrary, the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief must have given approval to Oplan Wolverine, or he must have been at least informed by his Executive Secretary, Ochoa, who heads the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) and tacitly approved the plan. PNoy cannot say it was just a routine police operation that did not need his approval. This is the biggest police operation, involving nearly 400 armed troopers!
President BS Aquino 3rd should STOP LYING to the Filipino people and the world. If not, then perhaps it is time that the puerile president is removed from office.