I am talking of course about the Mamasapano massacre where 44 police commandos lost their lives during a covert raid to capture, dead or alive, international terrorists and Malaysian bomb expert Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman on January 25, 2015.
Marwan may have been killed and Usman escaped in the process, but because 44 lives were brutally snuffed out also in exchange, now people are asking, especially some grandstanding politicians, if the Americans contributed, by any way, shape and form, to the fate met by the Fallen 44.
It is a known fact all over the world that the US government is going after international terrorists, especially those known to have targeted or killed Americans.
The fact alone that Marwan and Usman carried bounties on their heads in US currency only signifies their being high-value targets that deserved to be hunted, apprehended or killed, before they produce more bomb makers and terrorists to strike again anywhere in the world, where they are called upon to unleash their wares, which could even happen in the very country they have been monitored as staying.
No doubt that the likes of Marwan and Usman, and their whereabouts, have been under close surveillance by joint Filipino-American intelligence operatives for quite sometime now and it is because of this spying work that Oplan Exodus, just like the other secret operation plans that got aborted in the past, as told by former Special Action Force (SAF) commander Getulio Napeñas, was conceptualized and finally activated. The time was ripe and it was covertly scheduled on January 25, 2015.
I would suppose that the American participation was only limited to sharing and giving intelligence information using their sophisticated gadgetries, an example of which was admitted by Napeñas himself when he told the senators that a US surveillance plane tracked Marwan to his hideout in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Having been trained as SAF commandos, with highly specialized preparation in anti-insurgency campaigns and counter terrorism, I am sure that the Americans trusted the capability and competence of Napeñas and his troopers in carrying out Oplan Exodus using their own strategic and tactical plans as they see fit for the success of the operation.
Suffice to see that the American did not have a direct role in the dangerous operation, as Napeñas admitted during the hearings, except perhaps to provide aerial assistance for medical evacuation, if and when it was needed – as what was done.
So, the question now is: Why was there a massacre of the elite commandos even as they found success in killing Marwan?
From the investigations conducted, we can only attribute the carnage that happened to the Fallen 44 to a faulty strategic plan.
What I am simply saying is that while tactical plans applies to Napeñas and his instructions to his special forces in going after the target, the strategic plan, normally, is taken cared of by the higher police authorities in coordination with the military, if and when their forces are needed. Of course, all these with the knowledge of the commander-in-chief.
What happened is that President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) allowed Alan Purisima, a suspended PNP chief at the time, to be in the loop and on top of Oplan Exodus, giving him updates, while agreeing with Purisima to keep Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and OIC PNP director Leonardo Espina in the dark about the critical operation until it shall have been started.
What made Oplan Exodus even more ominous is when Purisima told Napeñas that he will take care of informing AFP chief Gregorio Catapang about the covert mission of the PNP-SAF in Mamasapano.
Certainly, Purisima’s actions and words had the blessings of PNoy, who saw no wrong in the man he blindly trusts, while the police and the military are blaming each other for the carnage.
The rest is history, as they say, with the lack of timely coordination by the higher authorities in the chain-of-command being blamed. But we all know who breached the chain-of-command and who allowed it to be breached.
So, who is at fault?