MANILA, Philippines – Who could be held liable for the Mamasapano tragedy on January 25 that cost the lives of 44 Special Action Force commandos, 18 Moro rebels and 5 civilians?
In its report, the Board of Inquiry (BOI) of the Philippine National Police identified at least 3 top officials who violated rules in the planning of “Oplan Exodus,” a secret operation against two high-value targets: Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan; and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed in the Mamasapano operation, while Usman managed to escape.
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1. Aquino violated the chain of command in the Philippine National Police
The BOI said President Benigno Aquino III gave "the go-signal and allowed the execution of "Oplan Exodus" after the concept of operations was presented to him by Director of Special Action Force (SAF) Police Director Getulio Napeñas.”
Aquino also: “Allowed the participation of the suspended Chief Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman,” and “…bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command.”
2. Resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima acted without authority in planning “Oplan Exodus”
The Ombudsman issued a preventive suspension order on Purisima early December 2014 over graft charges. The BOI report noted that the "powers and authorities of PDG Purisima ceased to exist on the day of his suspension."
3. "Oplan Exodus" defective; Napeñas didn't listen to other commanders
"Napeñas said they 'own the night,' but he probably missed the point that the enemy 'owns the day.'" Almost mocking the sacked SAF commander, the BOI cited lapses committed by Napeñas in the planning of "Oplan Exodus." (READ: Napeñas assured SAF troops of artillery, had no 'abort' option)
The BOI said: “The mission planning appears to have been done by a group of officers and not by a planning team, as the inputs were heavily influenced by instructions from Napeñas. The element of healthy discussions was not achieved and the free flow of ideas was curtailed."
4. Aquino failed to give Napeñas 'strategic guidance' on peace process
Aquino did not raise any concern about the possible impact of “Oplan Exodus” on the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Napeñas stated that President Aquino did not raise any particular concern on how Oplan Exodus may potentially put the peace agreement with the MILF at risk,” said the report.
“As Chief Executive of the Philippines, the President could have given strategic guidance to Napeñas on the implications of conducting a law enforcement operation within MILF-controlled communities.”
5. Americans provided 'real-time' information to SAF
“Six American nationals” provided “real-time information” during the Mamasapano operation.
"The US counterparts provided real-time information on the actual movements of friendly and enemy forces in the area of operations. The US personnel at the tactical command post were able to do this by providing the special technical equipment and aircraft, which they themselves operated," read the report.
Purisima, a "experienced Intelligence Officer" and Napeñas, a "seasoned combat officer" should have known better than to relay inaccurate and misleading information to key personalities on January 25.
The resigned PNP chief, the BOI report said, forwarded to Napeñas unverified information from an MILF contact. Napeñas, meanwhile, failed to express urgency when he was texting PNP Officer-in-Charge Deputy Director Leonardo Espina.
The BOI also criticized the two police generals' decision to communicate via text message instead of through phone calls because text messages "do not connote urgency to respond or react" and "had the risk of leading to misunderstanding and confusion."
Read the BOI report in full here: