Police official bares gag order on Mamasapano carnage
SIMMERING hostilities over the unsettled controversy brought by the massacre of dozens of elite police officers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, early this year came to light as a high-ranking official disclosed recently that officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were ordered not to talk about the incident.
What revived the dormant resentment of PNP officials was the recent statement of President Benigno Aquino 3rd that he is studying an “alternative version” of the tragedy that claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
The top police official told The Manila Times that many SAF officers felt offended by the President’s disclosure, noting that the supposed new leads are actually “misleads.”
The source said the SAF officers have been given orders not to respond to questions regarding the “alternative truth.”
“You can ask around. That is, if SAF officers will reply to you because they have been directed not to make any comments. They were told not to talk. The PNP has extensively investigated the incident through the Board of Inquiry. How will General [Director Benjamin] Magalog react to this?” the police official said.
Magalong was the head of the board that investigated the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 44 SAF commandos who were deployed to get terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman.
Marwan died during the dawn raid while Usman was killed in May.
Aquino, in a forum last week, said various government agencies are trying to establish what happened in Mamasapano on January 25, 2015.
“There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny. We are looking for witnesses that will prove or disprove certain observations,” the President added.
But Magalong, when reached by this paper, refused to comment on the supposed new twist.
He, however, stood pat on the report of the Board of Inquiry.
“I stand by my report. The [surviving]SAF officers risked their lives as their colleagues sacrificed their own just to get Marwan. They have saved the lives of many people who would have been victimized by him,” Magalong said.
The board’s report indicated that Aquino bypassed the chain of command when he allowed his friend, former PNP chief Alan Purisima, to implement Oplan (Operation Plan): Exodus.
Purisima was under preventive suspension when the mission to get Marwan was carried out.
The Board of Inquiry was activated on February 2, 2015, days after the deadly January 25 carnage where separatist rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups mowed down the SAF troops who were providing cover for a company of policemen who raided Marwan’s hut.
The report contained more than 300 signed affidavits of SAF members, military officials, witnesses and other civilians who provided information on the firefight.
When asked if he thinks the “alternative truth” revealed by the President has bearing, Magalong, who was chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) when the probe was launched,curtly replied: “I’m sorry. I cannot speak on something I have no authority to talk about.”
He was summoned to Malacanang days after he released the board’s report. Magalong said the President was clearly upset by the results of the probe. Last month, the police officer was replaced at the CIDG by Bicol police commander and Chief Supt. Victor Deona.
According to The Manila Times source, he will come out “in the right time” to reveal everything he knows about the bungled operation.
“Clearly, this alternative truth is aimed at discrediting the SAF. And this can only be done by someone who feels guilty about it. There are efforts to exonerate top officials,” he said.
When asked if the “guilty” officials include President Aquino, the source replied, “Of course.”
In Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President has ordered a probe of the new angle, which according to reports indicated that Marwan was actually killed by his aides who turned government spies.
“President Aquino himself said there is a need to get to the truth of the matter, the complete truth,” Coloma added.
“He himself ordered a continuous probe [of]this matter. It’s better if we will just wait for results of this investigation,” he said.