Aquino blames Napeñas for Mamasapano tragedy: I never thought he’d lie to me
Former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday (Jan. 26) pinned the blame for the 2015 Mamasapano tragedy on Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas, saying his failure to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on a covert police operation resulted in the loss of over 60 lives.
In a statement, Aquino said his only mistake concerning the SAF’s mission codenamed “Oplan Exodus” was the trust he placed on Napeñas to carry out his orders.
“[K]ung may kasalanan po ako bilang Pangulo nung panahong iyon, ito po: ni minsan, hindi pumasok sa isip kong magagawa ni Napeñas na magsinungaling sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas. Pinagkatiwalaan ko ang isang two-star police officer, na ako pa mismo ang nag-promote. Naniwala akong itong graduate ng PMA ay tatalima sa values ng paaralan na ’Courage, Integrity, Loyalty,’” he said.
Aquino broke his statement on the Mamasapano clash after President Rodrigo Duterte slammed him for his failure to acknowledge his fault in the botched police operation that killed 44 SAF troopers.
“Oplan Exodus” was a clandestine police operation hatched to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his aide, Abdul Basit Usman. The lapses in carrying out the mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015 also led to the deaths of 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and five civilians.
The former President said he ordered Napeñas to coordinate with the AFP regarding the mission on the instance it was presented to him because he was aware of the Mindanaoan concept of “pintakasi,” where armed elements will swarm around their enemies if they are certain they outnumber the latter.
He said he told Napeñas to coordinate wiith the AFP ahead of the mission so it could prepare the mechanized units, artillery, airplanes, men and other assets necessary to avoid a “pintakasi,” especially since the then-SAF commander said he will be deploying 160 Seaborne operatives to facee an estimated 3,000 potential enemies.
“Sagot ni Mr. Napeñas: ‘Yes sir.’ Matapos ang imbestigasyon, lumabas na wala palang 160 na Seaboren. Higit 70 lang ang bilang nila at 54 sa kanila ang operators,” Aquino recalled.
The former President said Napeñas also agreed to his order to coordinate with the AFP beforehand about the operation even if the SAF chief had proposed that the armed forces and the PNP work together when his men were already on the move.
He said the former SAF chief’s failure to follow his orders– with prior coordination becoming “time after target” caused the AFP to be blindsided when the SAF troopers and armed elements from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were exchanging gunfire.
“Dahil walang coordination, ang AFP nagkandarap, dahil yung mga detalyeng dapat alam nila, gaya ng sino ang tutulungan at saan, saka pa lang nila inaalam,” Aquino said.
“Hindi ko maiiwasang isipin: kung sinunod lang ang lohikal at legal kong utos, hindi mangyayari ang trahedya sa Mamasapano,” he added.
Aquino said the Philippine Army was not used in the operation because the power to enforce the arrest warrant on Marwan was with the PNP.
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