MANILA, Mar 10 (Mabuhay) — A day after President Benigno Aquino III blamed former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) director Director Getulio Napeñas Jr. for the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 commandos, the beleaguered police officer on Tuesday through a lawyer hit back at the Commander-in-Chief.
Vitaliano Aguirre, Napeñas legal counsel, said the tragic encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with which the government has an existing peace agreement, was triggered by Aquino allowing his friend, then suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, to control the sensitive operation to arrest high-value targets in alleged MILF territory.
“Bakit kahapon hindi man lang binanggit nag naging papel ni General Purisima? Bakit walang responsibility ang isang Pangulo?,” Aguirre said.
“Ang unang-unang katanungan diyan ay bakit pinayagan niya (Aquino) na ang mangasiwa sa napakaselan na operasyon ay isang suspendidong chief ng PNP? Sa palagay ko sa kautusang iyan, sa nangyaring iyan, diyan nagsimula ang lahat,” he added.
It has been reported that it was Purisima who was calling the shots for Oplan Exodus, the PNP-SAF operation aimed at arresting Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alis Marwan and Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman.
Purisima had earlier denied the reports, saying that he was only involved in supplying the intelligence packet and giving advice regarding the operation.
In a gathering of Christian leaders in Malacañang on Tuesday, Aquino enumerated the errors allegedly committed by Napeñas during the Mamasapano operation, which resulted to the high number of casualties on the side of the PNP.
Aquino said he had instructed Napeñas to coordinate with the military days before the execution of the operation, contrary to the latter’s claim that there was an agreement that the coordination would be “time on target” or when the SAF troopers were already in the target area.
Aquino also said that he was “fooled” by Napeñas by giving him wrong information about the operation.
Aguirre indicated that if Aquino was indeed after proper coordination, he would not have allowed Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP acting officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina to be kept in the dark about the operation.
“Bakit ang naging parang superior ni Napeñas ay si Purisima na isa nang suspended [official] nung January 9, nung nagkaroon ng briefing? Bakit ang dalawang matataas na pinuno ng kapulisan, si General Espina at Secretary Roxas ay wala doon sa briefing na yun?” Aguirre said.
Aguirre was referring to a briefing about Oplan Exodus at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang on Jan. 9.
In previous hearings of the Senate and the House of Representatives about the Mamasapano incident, Napeñas said that only him, Purisima, PNP Intelligence Group director Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez and Aquino were present during the said meeting.
“Kung talagang inutusan niya si General Napeñas na i-coordinate yung dalawang opisyal na yun (Roxas and Espina), bakit hindi siya mismo ang nagpatawag nang makita niya na wala sila doon sa briefing? Sandali lang naman ipatawag sila,” Aguirre said.
In a hearing at the Senate last month, Napeñas admitted that Aquino neither looked for nor required the presence of Espina during their briefing at the Bahay Pangarap on January 9.
Napeñas also recounted that after the briefing, Purisima told them not to inform Roxas and Espina about the operation until the SAF men are already in the target area.
Purisima had earlier admitted that he may have said such words to Napeñas but maintained that his statement was more of an “advice” rather than an order.
But Aguirre maintained that his client should not be blamed by taking Purisima’s words as an order from the Aquino. “Masisisi ba natin si General Napeñas kung sumunod kay General Purisima?” he asked.
“Pagkatapos ng meeting nilang apat, lumabas si General Napeñas at General Mendez. And then nag usap pa ang Pangulo at si General Purisima sa loob. Pag labas niya (Purisima), sinabi kay Napeñas na ‘wag sabihin sa dalawa (Roxas and Espina)’ Ano aakalain ni General Napeñas? Di ba yan utos mula sa Pangulo?” he added.
Aguirre also slammed Aquino for being too quick in putting the blame on Napeñas when the PNP Board of Inquiry has yet to release its report on the Mamasapano incident.
“Siguro mapapansin ng madami na kahit minsan hindi nagpa interview sa anumang sangay ng media ni General Napeñas kasi nga sinabihan siya ng kanyang mga superiors na kung pwede bago magpainterview ay dapat nakalabas na ang BOI report. Ngayon, di naman namin akalain na talagang ibabagsak sa kanya ang lahat ng sisi samantalang ang BOI report ay di pa lumalabas,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said Aquino’s statement yesterday might pre-empt or even influence the outcome of the BOI investigation.
“Ngayon ang katanungan, ano kayang magagawa ng BOI? Maaari pa ba nilang salungatin ang stand ng Pangulo na siya (Napeñas) ang may kasalanan ng lahat?” Aguirre said.
“Iyan ang malaking katanungan ngayon at sana magawa ng BOI ang kanyang katungkulan na magpalabas ng isang report na kapani-paniwala at patas,” he added. (MNS)