10 operations hatched by PNP vs Marwan
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) hatched 10 operation plans to go after al-Qaeda linked terrorist and bomb-making expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, since 2010.

In a report at yesterday’s Senate inquiry into the death of 44 members of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25, PNP Board of Inquiry head Director Benjamin Magalong outlined the 10 operation plans against Marwan.

These were Oplan Pitas in December 2010, Oplan Smartbomb in July 2012, Oplan Wolverine in December 2012, Oplan Cyclops in April 2013, Oplan Cyclops 2 in June 2013, Oplan Wolverine 2 in March 2014, Oplan Wolverine 3 in May 2014, Oplan Terminator in November 2014, Oplan Terminator 2 in December 2014 and the last one, Oplan Exodus on Jan. 25.

Marwan had been on the run for the past years. He was spotted in Sulu, Basilan, Lanao Sur and recently in Mamasapano, where he was finally neutralized on Jan. 25 by 13 members of the SAF assault team that reached his lair.

Magalong said that under Oplan Exodus, it took 12 SAF companies, including the assault team, blocking forces, recon teams and the command group, to launch the operation.

But Oplan Exodus led to the SAF’s bloody encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters that resulted in the massacre of 44 SAF commandos.

Relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas said he started to look for Marwan about ten years ago when he was still provincial director of South Cotabato Police.

He said a series of bombings in his jurisdiction prompted him to look into the profiles of the suspects that turned out to be one man: Marwan.

‘Failed ops in the past due to info leak’

During his testimony at the Senate inquiry, Napeñas expressed his frustration over how previous efforts to pin down Marwan were unsuccessful, especially when there were many units informed about the operations.

“Of course, many of you will ask: What could be the reason why the operation will be compromised? The main reason is that the information and preparations of operations are leaked whenever major operations against high-value targets are conducted,” Napeñas explained.

He did not rule out the possibility that the “subjects are being coddled by the MILF, whose members have a lot of contacts with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP.”

Because of this, Napeñas said high-level operation security and secrecy are necessary.

He cited the operation in July 2012 when Marwan escaped, apparently after he was tipped off that the SAF were going after him in Butig, Lanao Sur.

On April 25, 2014, Oplan Wolverine was aborted after the 6th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army withdrew its commitment to provide mechanized brigade units to support the operation.

“I supervised these operations as SAF senior officer since Marwan and Basit Usman (another wanted bomb maker) are considered high-value targets and operation against them is highly sensitive,” Napeñas said.

Wolverine presented to Noy, Mar

Oplan Wolverine was approved by now resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima.

Oplan Wolverine was also presented to President Aquino, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, now retired and then regional director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Reyes provided the intelligence packet for the operations.

Sources said that US counterparts were also providing intelligence information on Marwan’s location in most instances, but Napeñas did not mention this in his testimony.

Napeñas recounted how now PNP officer-in-charge Gen. Leonardo Espina knew about the operations when he was still deputy chief for operations of the PNP.

“I duly informed the chief PNP through phone stating therein the reason why the operation was aborted. The chief PNP told me that he will inform higher authorities regarding what happened,” he said.

Another operation on May 30, 2014, which was coordinated with the AFP, was also aborted because of the presence of heavily armed groups in the target area, particularly at the vehicle dropoff point.

AFP operated on its own

On June 10, 2014, the 6th ID/Mechanized Brigade of the Philippine Army all of a sudden conducted a raid against Marwan and Usman at the same location without coordination with the SAF. The AFP failed in its mission.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, has moved to invite Delos Reyes to attend the hearings to shed light on his knowledge about the operations against Marwan.

During the hearing, Sen. Gregorio Honasan also asked the PNP leadership to provide the committee with the intelligence report, project proposal and the development of operation plans.

Since operation plans “were all written, signed and with a distribution list,” Honasan said these would pinpoint authority and responsibility.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also reiterated his call for the PNP leadership to provide the Senate a copy of Oplan Exodus.

But Roxas objected to making public the operation plans to prevent the enemies of state from learning the “strengths and weakness of the government troops.”


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