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Aquino breaks silence, denies US hand in Mamasapano

Jonathan de Santos - Philstar.com
Aquino breaks silence, denies US hand in Mamasapano
In this June 28, 2016 file photo, then President Benigno Aquino II graces the Armed Forces of the Philippines testimonial parade at the military headquarters in Quezon City.
Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — Former President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday broke his silence on the 2015 Mamasapano clash, where 67 Filipinos—including 44 elite police officers—were killed, to deny US involvement in the operation and stress that he ordered coordination between the police and military.

In a statement released early Thursday, Aquino responded to questions raised by President Rodrigo Duterte, who alleged that the US Central Intelligence Agency was behind the operation and criticized his predecessor for sending Special Action Force commandos "into the lion's den."

Aquino acknowledged that the US helped with equipment and hardware for intelligence gathering as he said had been done even before his administration. He said he did not talk to any Americans regarding the operation.

The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry that looked into the operation in 2015 noted US assistance with intelligence as well.

"Bago pa man ang panahon ko, tumutulong na ang Estados Unidos sa ating mga operasyon. Ang sa akin, Pilipino ang mga kausap ko. Pilipino ang nagbibigay-ulat sa akin, at Pilipino ang nagsagawa ng misyon. Ultimong asset na nakalapit kina Marwan, asset ng ating gobyerno," Aquino said.

Aquino also said that he had given then SAF Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. orders to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the mission.

"Inutusan ko si Napeñas na kailangan niyang makipag-coordinate sa AFP para maihanda ang mechanized units, artillery, eroplano, tao at iba pang assets na kailangan para hindi mangyari ang pintakasi. Sagot ni Mr. Napeñas: 'Yes, sir.' Matapos ang imbestigasyon, lumabas na wala palang 160 ang [84th "Seaborne" Special Action Company]. Higit 70 lang ang bilang nila at 54 sa kanila ang operators," he said.

"Dagdag pa ni Napeñas, mangyayari ang coordination kapag moving na raw sila. Tumanggi ako dito; sabi ko, kailangang may sapat at supisyenteng araw para maiposisyon ang lahat ng assets. Ang sagot na naman niya: 'Yes, sir.'"

The former president said that the coordination that Napeñas should have been done days before the operation only happened when the SAF units were already in the area.

"Dahil walang coordination, ang AFP, nagkandarapa, dahil yung mga detalyeng dapat alam nila, gaya ng sino ang tutulungan at saan, saka pa lang nila inaalam," he said.

Napeñas said in past probes that he had briefed Aquino before the operation on Jan. 9, 2015. At the briefing were PNP Director General Alan Purisima and Fernando Mendez, then director of the PNP Intelligence Group.

Purisima had been on preventive suspension for a graft complaint at the time. He has since been dismissed and charged for an allegedly anomalous deal with a courier company the PNP contracted to deliver gun licenses.

Napeñas said that Purisima told him that he would take care of telling Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, then AFP chief of staff, about the operation. He added that the suspended national police chief told him not to tell  

“It was when he came out that [Director General] Purisima [told me], ‘Don’t tell the other two about this, just do it later when we’re there. I will take care of [AFP Chief of Staff] Gen. [Gregorio Pio] Catapang,’” Napeñas said PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II. Espina and Roxas were up the chain of command.

Among the findings of the PNP BOI was that the chain of command of the PNP had been violated in the planning and execution of the operation.

"Sa pagtatapos, kung 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," former President Aquino said.

ALAN PURISIMA

BENIGNO AQUINO III

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

CIA

MAMASAPANO CLASH

RODRIGO DUTERTE

SPECIAL ACTION FORCE

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