The unfortunate Mamasapano massacre, where 44 elite policemen belonging to the Special Action Force (SAF) died, has got people asking which of the three central figures notable in the bloody episode, is at fault? Or let us just put it this way: who is the guiltiest and who is the less culpable?
The three principal figures I am talking about are of course SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas, suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) himself.
To me, the debacle suffered by the elite police troopers in the hands of the combined MILF and BIFF rebel forces, while on a dangerous mission to capture two deadly terrorists, is simply a result of an operation too covertly planned and executed.
I am not saying that I don’t agree with the covert assault preparations made because, in fact, that is the way to go when one is after a high-leveled and high-valued target. But, for chrissakes, why make it so darn secret that in the process rules of conduct are violated and chain-of-command broken making a delicate assignment more vulnerable to greater risks and, possibly, loss of lives?
Why, for instance, were Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina kept in the dark? Being responsible for the PNP organization and having been privy to similar, but aborted covert operation against the same suspects in the past, why was Roxas excluded and disregarded? Is he not in that position because of his capability? How about Espina? Does his being an OIC Deputy PNP Director make him less of a responsible officer and leader despite his laudable career with the PNP? How come all of a sudden Roxas and Espina have been distrusted?
Why was Napeñas now by-passing his immediate superiors and covertly communicating and exchanging information, tactical or otherwise, with suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima?
If in the process of exchanging information, where Purisima admittedly provided “intelligence packet” for the covert mission, wasn’t Napeñas already coordinating with Purisima the SAF’s action plan?
If Purisima had still an iota of decency in him and concern for the SAF members ordered in harm’s way, could he not have suggested to Napeñas, and more so to PNoy, that communication and coordination with the military is important input in case, God forbids, an SOS is sent for them to help?
PNoy is included here because he himself has been part of this clandestine operation making Purisima his close confidant by letting the latter explain to him the difficulty and complexity of the mission.
In this case, PNoy did not only and willfully breached protocol himself by allowing a suspended PNP chief help manage the operation, but also condoned that Napeñas listened more to Purisima rather than the likes of Roxas and Espina.
Was it wrong to consult with Purisima on a subject that, perhaps, he has more knowledge about by virtue of his position before his suspension? Of course not.
But, to carry out advice, instructions, orders, or whatever you may call it from Purisima, who has since been suspended, and keeping Roxas and Espina out of the loop, with the palpable knowledge of PNoy is beyond reason.
Napeñas has been telling that he was reporting directly to Purisima and that the suspended chief ordered him not to inform Espina of the operation until his troops had entered Mamasapano.
Purisima, however, vehemently denies that he had something to do with the Mamasapano massacre since he was suspended at the time and could not have made commands. He also disclaimed the allegation that he gave instruction to Napeñas to inform Espina only when the assault was on-going.
PNoy, well, he can always say that he has not broken any protocol and will continue to have high regard for Purisima as he sets him on a pedestal, as always. If Purisima says that covert operation is not about saving lives, but taking down the deadly terrorist, then PNoy would probably believe it. That is the kind of trust he has for Purisima.
But this is one covert operation that turned awry and it is Napeñas words against Purisima’s and PNoy’s as to where, why and how it went awfully wrong.