United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Wednesday said they do cooperate with the Philippines and other countries in fighting international terrorism and that what happened to 44 elite commandos from the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) was a tragedy.
“What happened in Mamasapano was a tragedy, the objective of removing an international terrorist who is present in Mindanao was accomplished and then as everyone knows the tragedy [struck] the 44 very brave SAF members who were killed [during their] withdraw[al] [after the mission was accomplished],” Goldberg told the Pandesal media forum in Quezon City on Wednesday.
The Mamasapano clash, a police operation that was codenamed Oplan Exodus, happened on January 25, 2015 at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao in southern Philippines.
The SAF troops were allegedly joined by United States Army Special Forces during the gunbattle with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The operation was intended to capture or kill wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan.
“We have expressed our condolences to the families, we have made clear that we do cooperate with the Philippines and other countries [in combating] international terrorism. I think that is something people understand and people support. We do so through our agreements though our mutual understandings, we do so under the law of both countries and that’s what’s important for people to know,” he told the media forum.
Goldberg kept quiet on whether American soldiers in Mamasapano had tried to meddle in rescue of the embattled police commandos.
With what happened, people said the Mamasapano clash caused the death of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“As for the BBL, we have said all along that the BBL is domestic legislation, it is intended to carry out the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro. We have all, I think for the international side, supported the peace process in Mindanao but… the BBL is a domestic issue not for me to comment on,” Goldberg said.
“I also think people should look and be very careful when they talk about the various legal and other issues involvd because they’re complicated, they’re complex, they’re not simple,” he added.
The US ambassador cited as an example the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US that shows what cooperation can do for both countries.
“My understanding, if you read the [VFA], it is a government to government agreement, it’s not between the militaries [of the US and the Philippines], that deals with treatment and conduct of our forces in each other countries and that’s what the essence of what the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] is all about, it doesn’t deal with the agenda of what our cooperation will be,” Goldberg said.
Peace, he said, needs everybody’s push.
“I think that’s the commitment [of] everybody,” Goldberg added.