SAF survivor’s story

Police salute to honor the Fallen 44 for their heroic deed. (Sun.Star file photo)

DAVAO - A survivor of the Mamasapano carnage honored the Fallen 44 for their heroic deed in ultimately sacrificing their lives to save thousands of Filipinos who could be victimized by terrorist bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.

During last week's burial of SPO1 Lover Inocencio in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, the survivor whose identity will be withheld upon his request, said that it was already around 3 p.m. of that fateful day of January 25 or more than 12 hours since the troops entered Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, when SPO1 Inocencio told him that he was wounded.

He said they were already cornered by their enemies that time. The gun battle started as early as 6 a.m.

The survivor said they decided to lay silent for a while so their enemies would think that they are already dead.

He said their plan, however, was to fight it out with their enemies down to their last bullet.

The survivor said that around 4 p.m., they were already looking at each other as if saying goodbye and preparing for their last stand against at least 1,000 fully-armed enemies.

In his eulogy delivered during SPO1 Inocencio's burial last week, the SAF commando thanked his fallen comrades for their sacrifice in neutralizing Marwan.

Tales of the SAF commandos' heroic deeds recently surfaced after the survivors decided to reveal their true stories.

The survivors said it was only by telling the stories of the Fallen 44 would justice be given to them.

Not a secret?

Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima denied in a Senate hearing on Monday that he deliberately kept details of the Maguindanao operation from Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina.

Purisima said he "did not give any order" during his suspension from office for an Ombudsman case involving the alleged anomalous contract for the delivery of gun licenses. Purisima has been suspended since December.

"I just (gave) advice, not as a directive or order," said Purisima who was accused of giving orders to arrest two high-value terrorists in Maguindanao.

He added that he was unaware that members of the PNP-Special Action Force, who were tasked to arrest terror suspects Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman, went ahead with the operation on January 25.

Sacked PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas said it was his decision to proceed with the arrest although he recalled receiving a text message from Purisima asking him for updates.

"I was rendering mission update. I considered what Purisima said and it was my judgment to inform AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) chief (General PioCatapang Jr.) time-on target," he added.

PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina said it appeared that the sacked PNP-SAF chief had to make a "disinformation" of the operation since it has been a long-standing action and has to be performed.

Marwan, a member of Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, was killed but at the expense of 44 police commandos who died in a gun battle with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

Napeñas said Marwan supplies bombs to several terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf aside from teaching other terrorists groups how to create bombs.

Marwan was the responsible for the 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed 202 people and injured 209 others.

"In other words, Marwan is the most notorious bomb expert not just here in the Southeast Asia but also in the entire world. This is the reason why he was named as one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most wanted men in the world after the fall of Bin Laden," Napeñas said.

He said it took authorities years of painstaking planning before they could finally eliminate Marwan through "Oplan Exodus".

"While hiding in Mindanao under the protection of the MILF and BIFF, he continued to stay involved in the militant Islamic activities and terrorist bombings," the relieved SAF chief said.

Failed tries

Napeñas said they included the AFP in planning missions to capture Marwan and Usman but most of the plans did not push through or had become unsuccessful as the targets would monitor the movement of the Mindanao-based military.

He said they started working for the arrest of Marwan in December 2010 when the target was monitored in Parang, Sulu but when the arresting cops arrived at Marwan's location, he would be able to escape.

On July 2012, an operation for the arrest of Marwan and Usman was launched but he again managed to escape, the official said.

The "Oplan Wolverine" was then activated on April 25, 2014 again under the supervision of Napeñas in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano in Maguindanao.

"The same was aborted after the AFP withdrew its commitment to provide mechanized brigade units to support the operations," he said.

They then planned carefully the next operation against the high-value target.

In November 2014, Napeñas said Purisima asked him to proceed to the "White House", the official resident of the PNP chief in Camp Crame, and instructed him to coordinate and work with his intelligence officer, Police Superintendent Raymund Train, who had information on Marwan's whereabouts.

With the information they have, Napeñas together with other officials plotted another operation and informed Purisima about it.

"Go, but I have to tell the President regarding this," Napeñas said quoting Purisima.

"Oplan Terminator" was aborted during its launching day on November 29 "due to equipment failure while the resting force was en route to the target."

Napeñas said they informed Purisima about the aborted operation, which prompted them to launch the "Oplan Terminator 2", which was again called off.

That was when a coordination meeting was done at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on the third week of December where several military officials were present.

Oplan Exodus

"Starting December 23, 2014, the mission planning group once again gets back to work and mission planning begins," said Napeñas, adding that "Oplan Exodus" was created.

Although he is serving a six-month suspension order from the Ombudsman, Purisima, accompanied by Napeñas and another police official, gave the mission update to President Benigno Aquino III on January 9.

Napeñas said he made the call to proceed with the raid on January 25.

"Unfortunately, with a heavy heart, I am very sorry to say that not all of our men who took part in the Oplan Exodus did make it back alive," Napeñas said.

Napeñas said SAF men who were sent to the operation in Mamasapano were "highly trained and prepared."

Asked by Senator Francis Escudero why it took around seven hours for the MILF to stop firing, an MILF representative said lack of coordination from the PNP was a factor.

"We wanted to coordinate our efforts for the ceasefire to take effect as soon as possible but they (Moro rebels) said they were the ones being fired," said Rasid Ladiasan, chairman of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

Ladiasan said the MILF did not wish to be in a deadly encounter with the elite policemen.

"I told them to have a ceasefire. The information was relayed on the ground but the execution of ceasefire was not that easy because of the situation on the ground and the communication constraints," he said.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said Napeñas would not instruct the elite cops to attack the area without the command of the higher post.

"It (the go signal) should be coming from the higher ranking official. If not, he (Napeñas) will break the chain of command and he would just waste his 26 years of service if he did not follow the directive. He may be dismissed on what he did," she said.

To have a clearer picture of what truly happened in the area, Poe asked Napeñas to submit the operation plan for the Mamasapano operation.

"There will be serious consequences if it should be proven that the chain of command was broken," Poe said.

The joint hearing of the committees on public order and dangerous drugs, the committee on peace, unification and reconciliation and the committee on finance tackled the resolutions filed by Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Poe and JV Ejercito.

At the start of the hearing, Poe called for a moment of silence to remember the slain SAF members, including those wounded during the bloodbath.

She said that the inquiry needs answers on five issues: command and control, fundamentals in combat operations and intelligence, number and strength of forces, training, and equipage.

The hearing on the Mamasapano incident will resume Tuesday at 10 a.m. (BOT/Sunnex)
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