JoeAm’s findings, Senate hearing on the Battle of Mamasapano, Day 1

mamasapano battle ground

Mamasapano battlefield

Let me just highlight the key points I extracted from today’s 5 hour meeting of the joint Senate committee hearing on the Battle of Mamasapano in which 44 SAF forces, 18 (or more) MILF/BIFF forces, and four civilians were killed. I will go for the meaning without the background. I presume you know all the initials or can figure them out.

  • One problem was the informal guidance given by Chief Purisima to mission operation head General Napeñas after Purisima had been suspended. Both men testified cautiously and evasively but held their ground. Purisima gave “advice”. The basis was his former intimate engagement in the planning of the mission (before suspension). He gave no orders. The advice was for Napeñas to not advise General Espina or the AFP until the operation was ready to begin. General Napeñas confirmed Chief Purisima’s view and took accountability for ordering the capture/kill operation under a previously approved operations plan. Who signed off on that plan is not yet clear, but documents have been requested by the Senate.
  • President Aquino has so far been shielded from any responsibility for directing the mission. His only guidance, given to General Napeñas , was to coordinate with the AFP. Other reported direct engagements by the President were explicitly denied by the parties involved.
  • Secretary Roxas and General Espina were completely out of the loop.
  • Any engagement with foreign forces (e.g., American) has been shielded by pointing to “an intelligence package” with classified information. General Napeñas denied having access to high-tech weaponry and denied any knowledge of drones. Precision guided bombs were also not available for use.
  • Senator Honasan emphasized the importance of withholding names and identities of those involved in the mission, as well as operational details, for security reasons and to protect classified information. General Napeñas and AFP’s briefing general were open in identifying people and mission details, which made Senator Marcos uncomfortable.
  • General Napeñas explained that several prior operations to capture terrorist Marwan had not succeeded and he clearly believes that is because AFP cannot keep secrets.
  • AFP’s briefing cited the requirement for coordination whenever SAF/PNP was undertaking an operation. Napeñas rebutted, pointing out that AFP had conducted a mission to get Marwan – a known PNP target – without coordinating with SAF/PNP. That mission failed, too. Napeñas is clearly bitter toward AFP.
  • The matter of justification for SAF mistrust was not pursued.
  • SAF’s proceeding without coordinating with AFP was a violation of policy. Proceeding without advising the MILF was a violation of signed agreements.
  • Proceeding without coordinating with AFP left the SAF operating units without radio communication to the AFP (no AFP radio man) and without an artillery forward observer skilled at directing artillery fire. Desperately needed artillery support simply could not be provided.
  • General Napeñas claimed the MILF/BIFF forces actually absorbed several hundred casualties, not just the 18 claimed, based on what his men had reported. That was met with some senatorial skepticism.
  • The MILF seems to have run a skilled battle, isolating the force that attacked Marwan’s house by firing upon covering SAF units, holding them in place.These outlying MILF/BIFF units also stopped the AFP mechanized units from providing anything but weak assistance on the perimeter of the main battle. There was also confusion within AFP units as to the location of the SAF unit tht was was under the heaviest fire.
  • The joint government/MILF cease fire team instructed the MILF that their units were firing on government forces at 6:30 in the morning. However, it was supposedly impossible to get the message to the fighting units because of the heavy firefight (something I am personally skeptical about). Heavy firing continued until mid afternoon. Essentially, the slaughter could have been stopped if the cease fire initiative had been followed by MILF fighters.
  • Invited MILF Chief Negotiator Iqbal did not show up at the hearing, to the ire of Senator Poe and others, and he did not send a letter to explain his absence or appoint an official spokesman. He sent a representative, but he was not able to answer questions authoritatively.
  • The viciousness of the attack was made clear, and the unrelenting firepower. The senators emphasized that this was totally out of character for a people who have agreed to peace.
  • Secs Roxas and Gazmin were instructed to tell their staff to stop talking to the press because the piecemeal, erroneous reports was only causing misconceptions and problems.
  • Phones and phone records of key people (Purisima, Napeñas and others) will be acquired either from them or the telcos to find out accurately what transpired.

I think this matter of SAF’s mistrust of AFP needs to be explored. It has existed for years, yet AFP has done nothing about it. Secretary Gazmin has gotten off lightly and I think that should not be the case.

The hearing is clearly pointing to legal culpability:

  • Violation of regulations and agreements: Napeñas, Purisima
  • Harboring terrorists; murder: MILF persons to be designated

Secretary Roxas came across well. Presidential. Other senators were also sharp and incisive with their questions: Senators Poe, Escudero, Honasan and Cayetano in particular. Senator Guingona was emotionally almost out of control, trying to get Chief Pursima to say exactly what Guingona wanted him to say. Guingona eventually gave up in total frustration. Senator Sotto’s first request was to ask for a photocopy.

The hearing resumes tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 10) at 10:00 am.

 

Comments
35 Responses to “JoeAm’s findings, Senate hearing on the Battle of Mamasapano, Day 1”
  1. Brian says:

    The overriding theme of the recent events in our great nation seems to be – trust. Did the PNP trust the AFP? Can the government trust the MILF? Will Filipinos ever get over their deep distrust of their Muslim brothers and sisters? Will his “bosses” now choose to trust the president?

    These are interesting times to be a Filipino, and we can all do well to introspect amidst all these petty calls and fingerpointing. On whom can the suspicious and emotional Filipino trust; on what values can we as a people hold on to amidst these changing times? The answers to this question will define our identity as a people and will shape our destiny as we take our rightful place in the world.

    • Joe America says:

      That is EXACTLY to the main point. Trust is both earned and granted. I would note that it is not peculiar only to the Philippines. The various law enforcement agencies in the US are notoriously trying to undercut one another. And the US was never able to earn the trust of Iraqi troops and people, and vice versa. So disciplines to enforce coordination need to be strong to develop that trust.

      • Brian says:

        At its irriducible minimum, the BBL experiment is built on trust between two peoples. However, the Christian-Muslim distrust in our country seems to me too deeply engrained in both peoples. What’s worse is no one seems to be admitting their own prejudices. It is also not helping that Mr. Iqbal is not showing enough respect of the Senate hearing, nor apprent understanding of what the Senate is! I think the MILF now carries much of the burden to show it is trustworthy, and truly deserve being the other half of the “parity of esteem.”

        • Joe America says:

          Absolutely agree. The deal is dead unless MILF steps forward forthrightly.

          One of the points I missed capturing in the highlights is the MILF misconception that Mr. Aquino rules over the Legislature and Judiciary. This suggests to me that the Bangsamoro “Chief Minister” is given huge powers in the BBL with this master ruler in mind.

          • So true. Couldn’t help but cringe listening to that letter read essentially placing all branches of the government under the President. 🙂

            This blog is an absolute delight, sir! I too have been accused of being an apologist for the President and for the life of me I don’t know why that should be insulting. I love my country, and my family and I pray for the President all the time. May you reach more Filipinos with your sober and insightful writing!

          • I actually am fearful for Iqbal’s life. It seems in some ways he has become something like Arafat in his last days. The BBL is probably dead because the people who can rescue it actually cant.

  2. Dear Joe: Thank you much for this….. We’ve heard this before: To earn people’s trust, we have to show repeatedly that we are worthy of that trust….. I think the “distrust” issues in this case should be pursued–in order for the agencies and the nation to clean house and set it in order.

  3. Bing Garcia says:

    Senator Sotto’s first request was to ask for a photocopy.

  4. Bert says:

    In one of his responses to a senator’s queries, General Napenas made it clear that his reason for not trusting the AFP in this particular Mamasapano operation was because in past such operations to get Marwan where the AFP were informed and involved, the movements of the AFP assets such as heavy armor and artillery at the onset of the operation had alerted their quarry thus allowing Marwan to scape, not because the AFP cannot keep secrets.

    What’s so troubling to me while listening to the Senate investigation was the report that at 6:30 am the AFP was informed already of the heavy firefight going on, informed of the location of the action, they were hearing the sound of intense gunfire from a distance, and yet the officials cannot decide on what to do, exchanging communication with each other, back and forth, from 6:30 am to early afternoon while the SAF soldiers were being slaughtered, All words and no action. I’m sad, really sad, and angry, too.

    • Joe America says:

      I think his words at one point were that the plans were “leaked”, and he was clearly hostile about it. But the noise detail crossed my mind even in this exercise. I think the MILF/BIFF knew that the SAF units were staging and got every gun in town lined up.

      All words and no action indeed. I shared your feelings.

      It was the same on the other side. Notified at 6:30 to cease fire because they were shooting at government troops. The firing never stopped. Don’t tell me they had no way to get word to the forces. Just go up to the rear of the firing lines.

      Another thing that bothers me was a quick remark that it looks like the MILF has used the cease-fire period to build firepower, to add to weaponry. Think of all the bullets they must have expended over the 6 hours of blazing away.

  5. gerverg1885 says:

    And one thing that must not be forgotten, Joe, is where the weaponry came from.

    We must not forget the news then that most of the weapons seized from the Ampatuan clan were marked ‘AFP’ so there is not a remote possibility that the same could have happened there in the MILF territory.

  6. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    It is 2015. What took them to get educated what I have been harping about below since I was in high school, I am not even a University of the Philippines graduate:

    1. Secs Roxas and Gazmin were instructed to tell their staff to stop talking to the press BECAUSE THE PIECEMEAL, ERRONEOUS REPORTS WAS ONLY CAUSING MISCONCEPTIONS AND PROBLEMS.
    I hope they use the same principle on Binay, Arroyo and all the crooks and future kindergartnerish investigation
    2. General Napeñas explained that several prior operations to capture terrorist Marwan had not succeeded and he clearly believes that is because AFP CANNOT KEEP SECRETS.
    Tulfo and tabloids knew what Benigno and Jejomar were discussing in the inner sanctum of Malacanang how much more AFP? There are no secrets in the Philippines.
    3. Senator Honasan emphasized the importance of withholding names and identities of those involved in the mission, as well as operational details, for SECURITY REASONS AND TO PROTECT CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.
    If Honasan is so concerned about Security, Classified Information and National Secrets, he should start with Tulfo and the Tabloids who their sources were in Binay-Aquino tete-a-tete.

    So, there you are folks, these senators are now learning MOMENTARILY. FLEETINGLY. In a few seconds they’d be back to their dal-dal to the tabloids. Just in case nobody knows, ALL THE NEWSPAPERS IN THE PHILIPPINES ARE TABLOIDS. ALL OF THEM. And the bureaucracy are bunch of 15-minute famers, rats and snitches. They are also national security risks. Fortunately the tabloids do not know what national security is because in the Philippines there really is nothing worthy of secrets. Just ask Tulfo.

    Why Philippine Government is leaking secrets like a sieve? Because nobody cares! Nobody investigates the leaks of what they call “national secrets” and “classified information”. And thank goodness they are not investigating because nothing comes out of it. Nobody gets indicted. Nobody gets prosecuted and nobody goes to jail. THEREFORE, NO EXAMPLE!

    The Filipinos are tired of investigations. It is just another telesyeres for entertainment. Most of all if the commission is branded as “TRUTH” Commission, watchout, no TRUTH WILL COME OUT.

    I BET YOU MY CRISP ONE THOUSAND PESO BILL.

  7. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    I advise the Filipinos not to drag my countrymen in Mamasapano. Like the burning to death of caged Jordanian by ISIS it will backfire! NEVER, EVER, DO NOT drag the U.S.

    Yes, it may be true that we trained these Special Action Forces but I’d rather keep it a secret, naaah, not so secret since we are dealing with tabloids:

    1. IF WE TRAINED these Special Action Forces, THEREFORE, Philippine Military Academy training is not up to par with Vietnam and Thailand
    2. IF WE TRAINED these Special Action Forces, THEREFORE, it proves my point that Filipinos cannot be educated and trained.

    So, might as well not mention our U.S. Military training the Philippine Military.

    • macspeed says:

      the truth were 64 dead and gone, there is no need to discuss how they were killed. What to expect on War, nice killing or nice shots, people may it be soldiers or rebels lost their mind during firing time, paranoid to shoot and frighten to be shot, see this agony? Media is just using the scene to increase sales….that is one of the truth!!! The best thing to discuss are the reward for those who died.

      In War, everyone are losers, so how can these killers be asked to pay or submit themselves to prison…

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        In Philippine war, the winners snickers. The losers form Truth Commission. THE REAL LOSERS are the Filipinos who will be taken for a ride and entertained until they get bored.

        There could not have been a commission if their pronouncements and press releases were jiving. None of them jives. None of them can be put two-and-two together. That is why the Truth Commission.

        Even the actors in Mamasapano are taking the Truth Commission for a very long ride. Much longer for the rest of the Filipinos.

    • Joe America says:

      The thing that perplex me is that a lot of US training emphasizes inter-operability, how army coordinates with air force, Philippine troops with American troops. Why? So all that firepower can be utilized. The SAF went off on a mission but had cut off all the resources available to them by not letting AFP get ready, too. No radio to AFP. No artillery connection. They went on the mission naked.

  8. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Oh, by the way, these Special Forces were trained in a resort in Zamboanga! Huh? Really? It was in the tabloid Inquirer. I did not finish reading the article because it is beyond my untrained brain to comprehend.

    If the American military contract workers trained SAF in Zamboanga Resort, Definitely, BILF/MILF knew already something is brewing.

    What the “TRUTH” Commission should be asking is why didn’t they do mock operation before they went into combat like American Special forces do?

    Why was not Mar informed? Why?

    The “TRUTH” Commission should also subpoena the American military contractors if they were capable of training. (Subpoena American military contractors is like subpeona ZTE, Ayala and Ongpin that can never happen)

    So, the “TRUTH” Commission is just another investigation that will go away because of boredoom.

    Will the Filipinos ever see the end of it? ANSWER: A big NO like all their investigations, “Walang Wakasan, Palaging Itutuloy”.

    RWANDAN GENOCIDE INVESTIGATION came to an end in my lifetime. It happened in my lifetime. It was investigated in my lifetime. The justice was handed down in my lifetime. Philippine Investigations are beyond OUR LIFETIME. It is measured in LIGHT-YEARS.

    • Joe America says:

      It will take forever in the courts when legal actions get it there. But the truth is being revealed real time in this hearing, and it is fascinating. YOu can get a reading of the characters. Napenas and Purisima were EXTREMELY evasive. Like the Hilmarcs people at the Binay trial as they were being unraveled.

  9. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Joe mentioned drones. The Philippine Military do not need military type drones. Quad Drone comes cheap. GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition HD can be attached and let it fly over Mamasapano or anywhere they are going to have future operation. Quadrone invaded the airspace of White House without secret service knowing. So, this drone is very neat and child-like. It is available in Radio Shack, Assembly-required. To Philippine Military Academy types who are Assembly-required Challenged, my son can do it dirt-cheap for them. Provided he be shielded from future overpriced and ghost acquisition of Quad Drone Scandal from Radio Shack.

  10. macspeed says:

    Dead soldiers were casualties of War and the dead civilians were part of collateral damage. Weapons and other things lost are also part of collateral damage, there is no way to retrieved those cellphones back, it will just bring more miseries to the love ones.

    The Truth Commission should switch the topic about payment for the dead soldiers and those civilians. The payment will help offset the grief and sadness of those left behind. Aside from payment of cash, Heroes reward in the form of gold medals and write-ups will helps ease the pains of the lonely ones.

    The TC should not waste time determining whose fault or errors, no one can put back the spirits on dead bodies but instead pray for their Rest In Peace. The zone is at War, what to expect?

    TC may talk for Lessons Learned but definitely it should be under military meetings.

    Lastly, TC should discuss with the Peace Panels both for MILF/BIFF and the Government to agree immediately for solutions for complete peace approval and signed.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      In war, the collateral casualty is the truth. FBI said Marwan cannot be confirmed he is dead. The only confirmation is Marwan lost a finger.

      • bauwow says:

        @MRP, you’re shooting threes today! Thank you for the insights!

        Left leaning congressmen are indeed funny. They want the president to resign, and if he doesn’t, they order the military to stage a coup to unseat the president. Ahahaha, all in the guise of justice and peace for the Philippines! One of them was asked by a reporter who they want to succeed Pnoy in case he resigns. He replied that they will decide, once Pnoy resigns! Ahahaha! And they are congressmen, who supposedly should know their laws!

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