Mamasapano probe: No Purisima interview

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima is one of the key personalities in the controversial police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, but he has yet to speak to the police body investigating the incident. 

His reason? He couldn’t make it to Manila. 

Nag-manifest ako kung puwedeng interviewin namin [si Purisima] at ang sabi niya, nasa probinsiya daw siya (I made a menifestation if we can interview him and he said he's in the province),” PNP Board of Inquiry chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong told reporters here on Wednesday, February 25. 

Instead, Purisima submitted to the BOI an affidavit on Thursday, February 19.

"PDG Purisima is fully cooperating with the BOI investigation as in fact he already submitted his Affidavit last February 19, which includes pertinent SMS exchanges," said Purisima's lawyer, Kristoffer James Purisima, in a text message to Rappler. 

The BOI was formed following the bloody January 25 police operation in Mamasapano, that killed Jema'ah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (alias “Marwan”) and at least 65 others, including 44 elite cops.

It has until the end of the month to submit their findings. As it stands, the board is a purely “fact-finding” body with no prosecutorial powers. 

Magalong admitted this is one of the “obstacles” in the investigation.

“Majority are voluntarily giving their affidavits or submitting themselves for interview. Significant naman ang aming progress dito at sa tingin ko matatapos ito by next week (Our progress is significant and we’re confident we will wrap up by next week),” added Magalong. 

As of February 25, the BOI has collated over 370 sworn statements – from all 348 SAF troopers deployed for “Oplan Exodus,” PNP Officer-in-Charge Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, and military officials. 

Espina’s interview alone took over two hours, Magalong said.

Purisima and Aquino

Purisima has been criticized for his involvement in the operation despite a 6-month preventive suspension order over a graft case. Based on testimonies by other key officials and Purisima himself, the police general set in briefings with President Benigno Aquino III and was in close communication with Aquino during the operation itself.  (READ: Purisima misled Aquino?)

The 4-star general also told relieved Special Action Force (SAF) commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas to keep Espina out of the loop in the operation. 

Aside from Purisima and Napeñas, PNP Intelligence Group chief Senior Superintendent Ferdinand Mendez also sat in a briefing with Aquino at his residence in Bahay Pangarap.

The botched police operation has also put Purisima’s friendship with Aquino in the spotlight. The President has been criticized for being in close contact with Purisima during the operation and for his perceived lack of empathy for the families of the slain 44 SAF troopers. 

On Wednesday, Magalong denied news reports alleging the BOI had demanded that Aquino submit an affidavit to the PNP. “Wala kaming sulat sa Presidente na nagdedemand na interviewhin namin ang Presidente (We never wrote to the President, demanding that we interview him),” said Magalong. 

Magalong, however, added that the President’s side would be helpful. “Maganda kung magpahayag siya sa amin, malaking bagay sa inbestigasyon iyon (It would be good if he speaks to us as well. That would help the investigation),” added Magalong. – Rappler.com