AFP: SAF shared too little info too late
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police hesitated to provide details about the clash in Maguindanao that led to the death of 44 police commandos last Jan. 25, the military said yesterday.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the lack of information contributed to what he called “the fog of war,” or the uncertainties faced by combatants during the bloody encounter.

“If there is an encounter between two groups, there are a lot of unknowns. You don’t know how many you are up against. You don’t know how many of your comrades survived,” Padilla said in a press conference yesterday.

“That is what we call the fog of war. The fog of war was very thick during that time because there was no complete sharing of information obtained by each group. There was hesitancy by some groups to relay the information they got,” he added.

When asked what group had hesitated to share details about the incident, Padilla said: “Hesitancy on the part of those who knew information, on the part of the SAF.”

Padilla said the military got the entire picture of the situation when it was too late.

“We can compare it to a jigsaw puzzle. They can only execute what they need to do if the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are complete. They could not do the planning because of the missing pieces,” he said in Filipino.

Padilla’s statements confirmed earlier claims by security sources that the military was not given enough information about the beleaguered police commandos.

Sources claimed the military had prepared ground forces, artillery and air assets to help the SAF but they were not utilized since Army commanders did not know where to deploy them.

Padilla clarified there is no rift between the military and the police and stressed the two uniformed forces are continuously working with each other to ensure public safety.

“There was nothing that tried to prevent the armed forces from extending the needed help to our brothers who were still fighting it out in the field,” Padilla said.

“There’s a code between armed services that if your fellow uniformed serviceman calls for help you should do everything in your capacity to assist them,” he added.

A military fact-finding committee has completed its probe on the clash and has cleared Army ground commanders of responsibility for the delayed sending of assistance to the SAF operatives.

The committee, which presented its findings to the military leadership last Sunday, said the Army units organized a quick reaction force and started providing support at 6 a.m. or an hour after being informed of the encounter.

The Army troops went into the area until early morning of Jan. 26, when surviving SAF policemen were rescued and brought out of the encounter site, the committee added.

The military is expected to forward today the report of its fact-finding committee to the police Board of Inquiry. Padilla said the findings would be released to the public once they are received by the board.

The military fact-finding panel focused only on the actions of the Army during the gun battle in Mamasapano.

The Board of Inquiry, meanwhile, will cover other aspects of the clash, including its causes.

Padilla said the Board of Inquiry has already interviewed military officials on the ground. Among those who have given statements were Brig. Gen. Manolito Orense of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez of the ceasefire panel and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division.

The 44 SAF members who were killed in the Mamasapano clash with Muslim rebels were supposed to serve arrest warrants to wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, or Marwan, and Basit Usman.

Marwan, a Malaysian bomb expert believed to be the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah in the Philippines, was believed to have been killed during the operation.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has blamed the SAF for the encounter, saying the operation was not coordinated properly as required by the ceasefire agreement.

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