BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – He is among the highest-ranking officers of his class but during the Philippine Military Academy's alumni homecoming on Saturday, February 21, resigned national police chief Director General Alan Purisima was nowhere to be found.
Purisima, a 4-star police general, resigned from his post early February in the wake of the biggest crisis to hit President Benigno Aquino III's administation: "Oplan Exodus," a police operation that killed top terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as "Marwan," but also claimed the lives of at least 65, including 44 elite cops.
The police general played a key role in the operation, dishing out advice and serving as consultant to the President – despite his preventive suspension over a corruption case.
Purisima has been criticized for the role he played and for "advising" now relieved PNP Special Action Force (PNP SAF) commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas to keep PNP Officer-in-Charge Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Interior Chief Manuel Roxas II, and the military out of the loop for the January 25 Mamasapano operation.
Only Napeñas and the SAF command, PNP intelligence group chief Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez, Purisima, and the President himself knew of Oplan Exodus.
The Mamasapano clash has effects far beyond Maguindanao: it's put into danger the government's peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, cast doubt over Aquino's administation, and has seemingly pit PMA brothers against each other: the PNP against the AFP, mistahs against mistahs.
The AFP is being criticized for being unable to rescue the 73 SAF troopers trapped in Mamasapano. But military officials insist the call for help simply came too late. Their forces were unable to enter the encounter site.
In contrast, key officials kept in the dark about the operation were at Fort del Pilar on Saturday.
Espina, Purisima's mistah (classmate) from the PMA Class of 1981, was among the attendees. Also present was Police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr, the current number 4 of the PNP.
Roxas, an "adopted" member of PMA Class of 1984, also joined the homecoming.
Purisima's mistahs in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as its chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr, and Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, were also in Baguio.
Both AFP and PNP officials, however, have downplayed the perceived rift between the military and police forces, insisting that they continue to be brothers in arms, as it has always been since their days in the PMA. – Rappler.com