SAF chief: I reported directly to Purisima
Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Over a week after 44 police commandos were killed during a mission to capture high-value terrorists in Maguindanao, their sacked commander has admitted reporting the progress of the operation directly to suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Relieved Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Getulio Napeñas also revealed that Purisima instructed him to inform PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director Gen. Leonardo Espina of the mission only after the commandos had reached Mamasapano in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

“General Purisima told me to inform General Espina about the mission when we got there,” Napeñas told a press conference yesterday at Camp Crame.

“I was reporting both to Deputy Director General Espina and Director General Purisima because from the very beginning, about April 2014, it was General Purisima’s project. He was the one who approved the operation plan last November,” Napeñas said.

Purisima has been serving a six-month suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman since Dec. 4 for plunder.

Napeñas later clarified that he informed Espina about the SAF raid only after his men were already fighting their way out of the remote village where they had killed Marwan.

Espina and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II had said they were out of the loop during the planning and execution of the operations. President Aquino had admitted knowing about the operations.

The relieved SAF chief said he did not inform Roxas about the SAF operation as doing so would violate the chain of command.

“Up to the level of Sec. Roxas, I do not report to him directly – that will be a violation of our chain of command,” said Napeñas.

Napeñas noted that as SAF chief, he was supposed to report directly to the PNP chief or the PNP OIC and not to Roxas.

Napeñas said as early as 2010, the SAF had been monitoring and planning the arrest of Marwan and Usman.

Protect SAF image

He said he decided to break his silence on the matter to protect the image of the SAF, which is being maligned due to misinformation.

He said he first led a special operation against Marwan in December 2010 in Parang, Sulu but their target escaped.

Another operation was conducted on July 14 to 16, 2012 in Lanao del Sur, where Marwan’s hideout was found. Again, Marwan – along with other foreign members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – dodged the SAF.

On Dec. 17, 2012, another search for Marwan was set into motion in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC), but the operation was discontinued.

On April 25, 2014, Operation Wolverine began, in coordination with the 6th Infantry Battalion of the AFP, headed by Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz.

Joining the operation was the PNP- Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) chief Director Noel delos Reyes, who also provided the intelligence packet.

Ultimately, the operation was aborted, as the AFP was not able to commit a mechanized brigade to the operation.

On May 30, 2014, another operation was supposed to be launched, but was aborted after a reconnaissance unit alerted them to the presence of many members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) near Marwan’s hideout.

In November 2014, Purisima informed Napeñas of the exact location of Marwan and Usman.

Purisima ordered Napeñas to coordinate with the intelligence group.

On Nov. 29, Operation Plan Terminator began but was aborted after the boat to be used by operatives encountered a mishap.

Another operation was made on Dec. 12, 2014, but this too was aborted after operatives ran into a rebel group.

Napeñas said he is ready to resign from the police force if the man they had killed during the Jan. 25 operation would turn out to be somebody other than Marwan.

“I am betting… I will perhaps resign if he was not Marwan,” Napeñas, who was near tears, said.

Napeñas said he was banking on the credibility of the source who led the SAF men to Marwan in Pidsandawan, Mamasapano in Maguindanao on Jan. 25.

A GMA News report said the Federal Bureau of Investigation has confirmed after testing that the DNA sample taken from Marwan’s severed index finger was indeed his.

A total of 41 SAF men from the 84th Special Action Company (SAC) Seaborne acted as the assault team which pounced on Marwan in Barangay Pidsandawan, while 36 commandos from 55th SAC served as blocking force.

An undetermined number of SAF men from the 45th SAC were supposed to reinforce their embattled comrades but they were stopped by MILF rebels in Barangay Tukanalipao, also in Mamasapano.

Napeñas has reportedly met with members of the Board of Inquiry to submit his report on the incident.

Earlier, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said he got reports on the extraction of DNA samples from Marwan only from the media.

“The official report of SAF indicated that SAF commandos cut the right forefinger for DNA sample. Media reports indicated the sample has been taken to the US for analysis. That’s what I’ve heard from media reports but there was no official statement from the PNP,” Cerbo said.

Cerbo admitted he was not privy to the operations even though he was the deputy of the PNP’s Directorate for Intelligence at the time of the carnage.

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