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Aquino gave the go-signal for SAF raid

That was the claim of Police Director Getulio Napeñas, the recently-sacked head of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, referring to his troops’ ill-fated operation to terminate Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir and his local cohort that led to the massacre of the 44 SAF troopers on January 25.

That was the report yesterday of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Arlyn de la Cruz, a veteran journalist who has specialized in military and insurgency reportage for two decades. I’m surprised why that account was buried deep inside her report (SAF Chief: My men were still alive at noon but no reinforcements came”) and why the newspapers’ veteran editors didn’t make it their banner story for the day.

That important part of de la Cruz’ report reads:

“Who gave the go-signal?

This reporter asked him who knew about the Mamasapano operation.

Without hesitation he said: “The President, of course, because we had been working on this mission for a long time. As I told you, it was command commitment. We knew how dangerous Marwan was and that was the basis of this operation, to save the lives of the innocent people from the Bin Laden of Southeast Asia.”

A senior police official who asked not to be named told this reporter that Napeñas also admitted to Roxas that it was President Aquino who authorized “Oplan Wolverine,” the mission to get Marwan, a bomb expert from the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Did the enormity of the debacle freeze him? Aquino at the short January 28 press conference on the SAF massacre.

“Eventually this will come out and Napeñas owes it to the families of the fallen 44 to admit that he just followed orders because that’s what we do—we follow orders,” the police official said.”

When he was asked after his speech January 28 to give a categorical ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether he gave the go-signal for the SAF’s Jan 25 operations, Aquino evaded the question.

“’Sir, can we proceed with the mission?’ I don’t think I was ever asked that question,” the President said. “Isn’t that a rhetorical question?”

That Aquino personally gave the go-ahead for the mission explains why the SAF head had the gall not to inform his immediate superior PNP OIC Leonardo Espina nor Interior Secretary Mar Roxas of a major operation involving 400 PNP SAF troopers going into a known Moro Islamic Liberation Front territory.

It also bolsters claims over the real reason why Aquino suddenly decided to go to Zamboanga City the day before the Jan 25 raid where he visited the site of a blast the day before, which killed one person and wounded two dozen others.

Waiting for the big event
According to that claim, Aquino wanted it to be a big event, an awesome photo-op when he would congratulate the SAF troops either in Zamboanga city or in Cotabato, after they had captured or killed their two terrorist targets.

Aquino himself in his speech Jan 28 disclosed the involvement of suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima, known to be very close to him since he had been his personal bodyguard since the late 1980s. “General Purisima was helping me understand the jargon. But he was involved up to the point in time, directly, that he was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman,” Aquino said.

Aquino obviously was careful to point out that Purisima’s involvement ended when he was suspended. However, there are reports that it was Purisima who was the SAF supervising “project officer’ for the raid, who even monitored the attack from his residence in Camp Crame.

It was Purisima who allegedly told Aquino that the SAF raid to capture the two terrorists would boost the president’s prestige in the way images of US President Obama monitoring his special forces’ raid to kill Osama bin Laden did.

Purisima, however, suddenly left the country Jan 30, with his office claiming he had to attend a meeting in Saipan of the Free and Accepted Masons fraternity, in which he has the rank of grandmaster.

What remains a puzzle involves the SAF chief Napeñas’ revelation, told to the Inquirer’s de la Cruz, that by 6 a.m., the SAF troopers were already calling for reinforcements. “I knew the Philippine Army in the area was ready to reinforce us at once,” Napeñas was quoted as saying. “”But they were also waiting for orders.”

It’s impossible for Napeñas not to have informed Purisima and Aquino that the SAF raid was in big, big trouble that they needed to be rescued.

The firefight lasted from sunrise to sundown, and there was plenty of time for reinforcements to save the SAF troops from being massacred.

Why didn’t he, Purisima, Espina, Roxas, and even Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang, order troops to save the trapped SAF troopers?

Aquino had not been asked in his short press conference on Jan 28 – or couldn’t be asked, as only three journalists were given the opportunity to ask questions – at what time he was informed of the SAF attack.

Did Aquino, because of some psychological malady, just cocoon himself, and pretend that the problem didn’t exist, just as he did in the Luneta hostage crisis in 2010?

We would be shamed as a nation if our leaders, especially the Congress, could not account for what happened, if they shirk the responsibility of calling the president himself to explain why 44 young PNP troopers had to die.