PNP probe: No Purisima affidavit yet

MANILA, Philippines – With the submission of more than 400 affidavits, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is in the final stages of its own probe into what happened on January 25, when 65 people including 44 elite policemen died in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao during a police operation.

“The Board of Inquiry’s work is ongoing. We’ve been talking about going to Mamasapano because we’ve completed a picture of what happened, we just need to validate some claims, some allegations and assertions. That’s why we’re going to Mamasapano to find out what the environment was during that time,” Police Director Benjamin Magalong, who heads the PNP’s Board of Inquiry (BOI), told reporters on Thursday, February 19.

Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima has yet to submit his affidavit, but Magalong added that he has committed to sending it soon. (READ: Purisima: I did not lead Mamasapano operation)

“We did not give him a deadline but he knows he needs to give his affidavit. We continue to communicate,” said Magalong.

Purisima was serving a suspension order over a corruption case during the January 25 clash. Despite his suspension, Purisima sat in briefings with the President and even asked for military support to help beleaguered SAF troopers.

Purisima also acted as the President's "consultant" for the high-stakes operation. The police general resigned from his post more than a week after the clash. 

PNP Officer-in-Charge Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is also set to be interviewed by the BOI on Thursday or Friday, according to Magalong.

The BOI already has the affidavit of PNP Intelligence chief Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez, who also played a key role in “Oplan Exodus.”

End of February

Magalong said the investigation, which involves more than 400 affidavits from PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, MILF and civilians, is “70% complete.” 

The BOI has until the end of the month to finish its probe and release its findings and recommendations.

Possible charges – both administrative and criminal – will be determined by the justice department and the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service. The board is also working closely with the Ombudsman. 

Magalong said the report will be submitted to Espina who will then submit it to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is also the chairman of the National Police Commission.

The police general also said the report will be released to the public.

The January 25 operation, dubbed “Oplan Exodus,” is among the PNP’s bloodiest days to date. Magalong had earlier presented the BOI's initial findings during legislative probes into the operation. 

At least 73 elite cops from the PNP’s Special Action Force entered Mamasapano town, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to arrest Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir (alias “Marwan”) and bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman.

Forty-four of them never left Mamasapano alive after they found themselves in an encounter with fighters from the MILF and BIFF. The clash broke a long-standing ceasefire between the MILF and the government, which signed a peace deal in 2014.

MILF probe

The MILF earlier said it is also almost done with its own investigation of the clash.

On Thursday, the PNP and AFP presented to media 16 of the firearms seized by the MILF during the encounter. Scores more of the SAF’s equipment and personal belongings have yet to be returned.

SAF commanders, led by Police Director Getulio Napeñas, decided to keep military officials out of the loop, citing previous bad experiences in coordinating with the AFP. The SAF only informed military officials of the operation “time on target,” or only after SAF troopers had entered Mamasapano.

When elite cops needed help, the military was unable to send it right away because they were unaware of the situation inside Mamasapano–