THE Philippine National Police branded as a “tale” a claim of pro-administration Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th that members of the PNP Special Action Force deliberately excluded the military from an anti-terrorist operation when they invited Army commanders for a drink on the night the SAF stormed terrorists’ lair in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in Mindanao on January 25.
The PNP said Trillanes’ story only aimed to divide the police force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) even as it maintained its commitment to uphold the strong bond of camaraderie and unity with the AFP.
In a statement on Wednesday, the PNP assailed insinuations “that tend to undermine the professional brotherhood and inter-operabililty of police and military security forces in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident” in southern Philippines
Senior Supt. Manolo Ozaeta, head of a special project for Mindanao, has submitted himself to his superiors for explanation after being alluded to as the police intelligence officer who “wined and dined” Philippine Army commanders.
Ozaeta, an intelligence officer, confirmed that he hosted a two-and-a-half hour traditional “boodlefight” dinner at the Del Rio Splash Resort in Koronadal City on the evening of January 24.
The dinner, he said, was attended by some police and military officials based in South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Soccsksargen).
Among the guests, according to Ozaeta, were key officers of the Army’s 601st Brigade, including some battalion commanders.
In his manifestation, Ozaeta clarified that the dinner was a gesture of gratitude and goodwill to officers of the 601st Brigade in recognition of previous successful joint operations launched by PNP and AFP units in Central Mindanao.
He said the party was originally scheduled as a lunch or dinner party in November and December 2014 but was later moved to 6 p.m. of Saturday, January 24, upon suggestion of AFP counterparts to ensure availability of all guests since it was on a weekend.
The official maintained it was purely coincidental that the dinner was held hours before SAF police commandos launched Oplan Exodus in Mamasapano to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman on January 25.
Forty-four SAF troops were killed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an ensuing gunbattle.
Ozaeta said the party started promptly at 6 p.m. and ended when he and the brigade commander left around 8:45 p.m.
If at all alcoholic drinks were served during the dinner, these beverages normally come with parties, he pointed out.
“It has no link whatsoever to the Mamasapano operations nor was it intended to divert our counterparts’ attention from reinforcements as both units did not expect such operation in Mamasapano in the first place,” Ozaeta explained.
He said he has been working closely with AFP units based in Central Mindanao on some occasions, leading to successful joint operations against threat groups.