‘MILF selling SAF firearms for P1.5 M’
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was accused yesterday of trying to sell the weapons its fighters took from 44 policemen who died in the Mamasapano, Maguindanao bloodbath on Jan. 25.

Acting Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina made the accusation in a news conference at the House of Representatives in the presence of members of the special committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law led by its chairman, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

Espina said the PNP received reliable information that Muslim rebels who killed the 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) were selling the firearms taken from the dead policemen for P1.5 million.

He said the weapons being sold include recoilless rifles, which look like bazookas.

He specifically leveled his accusation against the MILF, which has admitted battling the SAF men in a supposed “misencounter,” in which they allegedly lost 18 fighters.

“MILF, you should return the weapons, uniforms, cellular phones and other things of our men. Those are not yours, they belong to the PNP and our dead policemen,” Espina said in Filipino.

“You already killed our policemen. Don’t add insult to injury (by keeping their weapons and other belongings),” he said.

Espina said some of those who took the dead policemen’s mobile phones even sent text messages to their wives, telling them that their husbands were dead.

Espina also reiterated what the Moro fighters did to the fallen SAF men was “excess overkill.”

Based on testimonies of survivors, Espina said the first team of 38 SAF men who tried to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir was met with gunfire.

Nine members of the team died but were able to kill their target, he said.

He said a second team of 36 policemen that served as back-up force encountered MILF fighters as the two SAF groups tried to withdraw after shooting it out with the Malaysian terrorist and his bodyguards.

“Thirty-five of the 36 were killed, only one survived. They were finished off with high-powered firearms after the initial encounter. Their faces and bodies were mangled. Their firearms, cellular phones, uniform and other belongings were taken,” he added.

He pointed out that this was the reason why many of the remains of the 44 SAF men were covered with white cloth or police uniform, or their caskets were simply locked.

The acting PNP chief stressed that if it was a “misencounter,” there would not have been so many lives lost on the part of the PNP.

“The MILF should have recognized our policemen after the initial gunfire, because our people were wearing uniform. Lack of coordination with the MILF was not an excuse for killing our policemen. Even if we did not coordinate with them, we were running after criminal elements,” Espina said.

Asked whether his being PNP chief in an acting capacity was the reason why he was not informed of the SAF operation, Espina replied: “I don’t think so.”

“If they wanted to inform me, they would have told me even if I am just acting PNP chief.”

He said relieved SAF chief Director Getulio Napeñas informed him through a text message of the operation after the SAF men’s initial encounter with the MILF.

Espina said he asked for reinforcement from his Philippine Military Academy classmate, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, without asking why he was bypassed in the Mamasapano operation.

The same thing should have been done by the military, whose officials were also not informed of the SAF mission, he added.

The military has admitted that SAF officers coordinated with them but that it was “too little, too late.”

Espina added President Aquino should not be held responsible for the botched SAF operation.

“Our men were trying to serve arrest warrants, it was our job and we had to do it,” he said.

Rodriguez thanked Espina for promising to submit a full report to his committee on the Mamasapano bloodbath on Monday.

The committee has deferred discussions on BBL provisions relating to regional security and public safety pending the submission of reports from concerned agencies.

Rodriguez said the Maguindanao incident has implications on such provisions.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his part, urged the government and MILF to undertake confidence building measures in order to restore the public’s trust in the peace process between the two sides.

Marcos said it is vital for both sides to demonstrate they are interested in bringing out the truth about the incident in order for the peace process to move forward.

Among the confidence building measures suggested by Marcos is for the MILF to return the guns taken from the slain SAF members, help arrest terrorist Basit Usman and clarify its relationship with the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

On the part of the government, Marcos said an explanation must be made about the apparent absence of command and control during the operation in Mamasapano.

According to Marcos, determining the truth about the incident would help in bringing the discussions on the BBL back on track.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, suspended hearings on the BBL after the Mamasapano incident.

“We have a peace process and a BBL and then this happened. This tells me that we need to tweak the BBL. This incident has shown us that a lot more needs to be done,” he said.

Marcos said the results of the investigations into the Mamasapano incident would help him and his colleagues at the Senate fine-tune the provisions of the BBL towards a lasting peace in Mindanao.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, aired his disappointment over the slow pace in which the information about the incident is coming out.

He urged concerned authorities to disclose all the information about the incident to the public right away in order to avoid suspicions of a cover-up. – Marvin Sy

ACTING PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS ESPINA INCIDENT MAMASAPANO MILF PNP POLICEMEN SAF
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with