The botched PNP-SAF operation at Mamasapano


Mamasapano massacre victims arrive in Manila.

Mamasapano massacre police victims arrive in Manila.

I can only commiserate with the grieving families of the brave police commandos that were slain by the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when the leaders of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) put into operation “Oplan Wolverine”, which was specifically planned to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” a Malaysian terrorist who had a $6-million bounty on his head – dead or alive.

But more than commiserating, like many Filipinos, I also feel outrage over the senseless killings of the 44 members of the elite police force brought about by deficient tactical planning of the mission, but also made worst by making it extremely covert and having a suspended PNP chief, yet, involved in the plan.

I admire Police Director Getulio Napeñas, who has since been sacked, for owning responsibility for what I still consider a botched operation, but he should stop comparing that Oplan Wolverine was very much similar to “Operation Neptune Spear,” the covert US Navy Seals operation that killed and extricated al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden from Abbottabad, Pakistan, in March 2011.

For one, you cannot speak the same of Marwan for, unlike bin Laden, Marwan was not alone with his family in an isolated place. What made the biggest difference, and this should have been considered seriously since Napeñas knew about it, is that Marwan was harbored by dangerous rebels and was located in Mamasapano, an area controlled by the MILF.

Thus, how could Napeñas expect to serve the warrant of arrest for Marwan peacefully when the intention was to get him dead or alive? Surely, Marwan won’t surrender readily especially knowing that the price tag on his head comes from the United States.

Also, knowing that the police commandos were entering the lair of the MILF, and not having communicated and coordinated with anybody from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for support and assistance, when push comes to shove, which was what actually happened, how could Napeñas have planned for, even, a miraculous escape when his troops were caught in an open area?

No amount of courage, training and expertise in the field of battle will suffice when soldiers are led to a dangerous and open place and they are left alone to fend for themselves because such an operation is supposed to be covert. It’s very obvious that the troops are being deployed simply to be massacred.

The botched PNP-SAF operation in Mamasapano was so covert that even the Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, he who is suppose to have supervision over the PNP organization and whose participation in the decision making of such an important mission is important, as it is relevant, was kept in the dark.

Now, what does this make of President Benigno Aquino as commander-in-chief, who knew about the operation all along?

Instead of having Roxas and other high ranking officers of the AFP in the loop of the operation to be able to arrive at a better consensus, Aquino seemed to have relied more on his protégé, Alan Purisima, the suspended PNP Director.

Indeed, what a man-made tragedy!

The fallen police commandos deserve the nation’s respect and admiration.

We salute them for their invaluable service and we will pray for them.



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