ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman speaks with AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang during the 4th public hearing on the Mamasapano incident. Beside Catapang is Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command.  (MNS photo)

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman speaks with AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang during the 4th public hearing on the Mamasapano incident. Beside Catapang is Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. asked for an executive session for the military’s ground commanders to shed light on their actions on the bungled police raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which killed 44 elite police officers.

The executive session would allow the ground commanders to talk freely, he said at a Senate hearing on Monday.

The ground commanders during the bloody incident were also present during the hearing.

The AFP chief also sought for an “independent higher body” for the AFP and the Philippine National Police to probe the issues surrounding the bungled Mamasapano encounter.

Sinusulong ko rin po ang isang independent higher body sa AFP at PNP para masuri agad ang mga issue sa nangyaring operational gaps, coordination, responsibilidad at iba pang bagay,” he said.

(I am pushing for an independent higher body in the AFP and the PNP to examine immediately the issues in the operation gaps, coordination, responsibility and other things.)

The military is being criticized for delayed reinforcements during the police raid. Members of the Special Action Force targeted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman when they battled with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters last January 25. While Marwan was killed, the operation resulted in the death of 44 elite police officers.

The lack of coordination between the military and police was also pointed out.

Catapang said that the morale of soldiers was affected due to the incident when they were not involved in the police operation.

Labis pong naapektuhan ang morale ng kasundaluan. Sa katunayan sa pag iikot ko sa mga units noong isang linggo ito ang kanilang nasasabi, ‘ Bakit po tayo ang nasisisi tinulungan po naman natin silang sagipin? Ano po ba ang ginawang aksyon ng kapwa nilang SAF na more than 300?’,” he said.

(The morale of the soldiers has been immensely affected. In fact, when I made rounds of various units last week, they would ask me, “Why are they blaming us when we helped save them? What did their fellow SAF troopers who were more than 300 do?)

Although he recognizes the heroism of the SAF 44, Catapang asked that those soldiers who saved the surviving SAF 28 be recognized too.

The President gave a strategic guidance and coordination for the AFP and PNP’s anti-terrorism drive to get Marwan, Catapang said. During the actual operation, however, there was no coordination between the AFP and PNP. (MNS)