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Bayan calls for Aquino’s prosecution for Mamasapano bloodbath

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and its allied organization called for the prosecution of President Benigno Aquino and former chief of police Alan Purisima for the many deaths in Mamasapano a year ago.

Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo said that while many facts are being covered up regarding the incident, it could never be denied that Aquino and Purisima are liable for the bloodbath.

President Aquino may only be charged after he steps down from office on July this year. The Philippine Senate is set on reopening its investigation on the Mamasapano incident very soon.

Aquino cover-up
The second address to the nation about the Mamasapano incident by President B.S. Aquino last Friday was more of the same glib BS.

To the fallen 44’s relatives, the self-proclaimed “Father of the Nation” said he feels for them just as if he had lost 44 of his “children”.  SAF Director Napenas is being set up as the definitive fall guy in keeping with Aquino’s habit of blaming everyone else but himself and his inner circle for any failures in his administration.  Aquino accepts the resignation of suspended PNP Director Purisima, Aquino’s BFF (best friend forever), for reasons known only to him.

Aquino vows to get Usman (the other “terrorist” that got away) and cajoles the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to please help or at least “do not interfere” (as in, don’t shoot our police when they come after him).  He then threatens the full might of the state against unspecified groups “who have lost their way”, presumably the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in a bid to satisfy those whose idea of justice is to get even through “all-out war”.

At the outset and in conclusion Aquino plays the “peace” card. The SAF commandoes attacked the MILF stronghold to achieve “peace”. (No, they were not just serving warrants of arrest for Marwan and Usman.)  Aquino considers the MILF “brothers on the path to peace”. (Too bad the ceasefire agreement integral to the GPH-MILF peace talks was breached by the Marwan operation, unleashing untold deleterious consequences on the peace process).  And a “widespread and lasting peace” should be the primary focus of one and all.  (Truth, accountability and justice are all secondary or perhaps even irrelevant.)

Aquino takes pains to paint Marwan as an extremely evil and dangerous man, wanted by both Indonesian and Philippine governments for mass bombings and for leading an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the region.  The description of Marwan as the alleged “Bin Laden of Asia” or Southeast Asia is exaggerated media hype; such is not what is stated even in FBI dossiers.

In fact there is no conclusive evidence till now that Marwan, Jemaah Islamiya, the ASG or any Moro/Islamic “terrorists” are behind the bombings in Mindanao and the National Capital Region.  Let’s not forget the US fellow Meiring who accidentally set off a bomb in his hotel room in Davao but was whisked out of the country by US authorities beyond any investigation by local police. Let us also call to mind the Magdalo mutineers who pointed to their superiors as having ordered them to throw grenades at public places and implicated then AFP Chief Angelo Reyes and ISAFP head Victor Corpuz in the insidious plots to sow mayhem.

Based on a mere FBI certification (which the public, by the way, cannot independently verify) that DNA tests indicate it is Marwan the SAF commandoes had killed in their assault, Aquino declares Oplan Wolverine a “triumph” albeit with a “heave price”.  To many observers, it seemed a foregone conclusion that US lab tests would show the SAF teams got their man.  A negative result would have meant the entire Marwan operation was an unmitigated failure.

But even assuming that the FBI claim is true, does one dead “terrorist” justify the illegal command by a suspended general; the unnecessary deaths of 44 SAF, 18 MILF, 2 BIFF and 6 civilians; and the outright violation of the ceasefire agreement between government and the MILF that had held without incident for the past two years?

Marwan’s supposed demise is being used in the same way Osama Bin Laden’s supposed death was used: to falsely claim that the world is safer from terrorism because of the US-led “war on terror”; to justify draconian anti-terror measures violative of people’s democratic and human rights; and to deodorize the atrocities perpetrated in the name of countering terrorism through imperialist wars of intervention, aggression and occupation.

Aquino crows that many lives have been saved because Marwan has been neutralized.  The question begs to be asked, were many lives saved by the killing of Bin Laden (assuming that he is indeed dead if we believe the US claim hook, line and sinker)?  Has “terrorism” ended with the killing of these leaders? Let us recall that in 2001, US troops joined the AFP in Balikatan war exercises directed against about 300 members of the homegrown Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).  The Philippine armed forces then said they had reduced the ASG to a few score men. Nowadays, authorities concede that the ASG appears to be continuously growing like the proverbial amoeba despite one counterterrorist campaign after another.

The truth is, in a bid to follow the orders of his US bosses to go after Marwan in this fatally flawed operation (also out of Aquino’s sheer incompetence, narrow-mindedness and arrogance) Aquino gambled the entire peace process with the MILF.  Aquino is now scrambling to salvage what is left of efforts to legislate the Bangsamoro Basic Law that hangs on the brink of interminable delays if not potential defeat.

The Aquino regime is carrying on the policy and practice of the previous Arroyo regime of blind, uncritical support for the so-called war on terror and compliance with US dictates.  This is not the first time the result has been at the expense of peace negotiations.  In the case of the GPH peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the US designation of NDFP Chief Political Consultant and the CPP-NPA as “terrorists” with the full collaboration of the Arroyo regime resulted in years of delays in the talks until the end of the Arroyo term.

What is critical at this point is to unmask the continuing efforts to cover up the truth and evade accountability by: 1) fudging Aquino’s critical role in the bungled operation as Commander-in-Chief,  particularly his criminal abuse of authority in disregarding the chain of command; 2) reducing the bloody fiasco to operational lapses and bad decisions of the commander-on-ground in order to shift the blame to him; 3) denying Purisima’s role as an illegal commander in order to shield Aquino and Purisima; 4) encouraging an anti-MILF hate campaign to also shift the blame on the MILF while making loud noises about wanting to push the peace process forward; 5) going through the motions of filing cases against the MILF and BIFF commanders to appease those who are crying for MILF and BIFF blood; 6) trying to appease the relatives of 44 SAF by means of financial assistance and false paeans to them as heroes; 7) continuing blackout regarding the US role in Oplan Wolverine; 8) claiming the Marwan kill  with US complicity so that operation is not exposed as a complete failure.

Aquino and Purisima are both criminally liable.  At the minimum, Aquino should resign while Purisima’s resignation should not allow him to escape criminal liability.

There must be no impunity for the Mamasapano bloodbath. #


Published in Business World

9 February 2015

Epic fail in leadership and intelligence

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It was a rout – a massacre.  On the early morning of January 25, forty four out of close to 400 elite, US-trained, Special Action Force (SAF) policemen were killed in a 12-hour firefight, in a remote barrio in Mamasapano, Maguindanao — a known rebel stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  They were reportedly on a top-secret counterterrorism operation to capture Malaysian bomb expert and Jemaah Islamiya leader, Marwan, said to be the equivalent of Osama bin Laden in Southeast Asia and his second in command, Usman.  The two had a total of $7 million bounty on their heads courtesy of the United States government.

The facts and circumstances surrounding this latest debacle in the Aquino government’s anti-terrorist efforts have only been slowly trickling out, no thanks to Malacanang’s lack of transparency if not outright attempts to mislead and deceive. Mr. Aquino’s address to the nation four days after the Mamasapano incident was riddled with inconsistencies, obfuscation, half-truths and outright lies. (For one, there is no mention of civilian guides and paramilitary/CAFGU casualties, which the MILF reports counting, adding up to a total of 64 instead of just 44 killed on the government side.)

Thus the families and comrades of the slain are still seeking answers.  They find little consolation in the Aquino administration’s declaration of a so-called national day of mourning, medals of valor for the dead and injured, and promises of financial support to the latter’s dependents.  They are steadfastly demanding that justice be rendered for their kin’s untimely, avoidable and senseless deaths.

This demand underlies the calls by various quarters for an impartial and thorough investigation into the culpability of those who had instigated, authorized, and planned the entire operation.

Unfortunately, the warmongers and those with deep-seated anti-Moro prejudices have been garnering the most media mileage.  They are calling for “all-out-war” versus the MILF, the junking of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and a halt to further peace negotiations between government and the MILF on the premise that the rebel group is mainly, if not exclusively, to blame for the carnage.

Aquino and his defenders and apologists pretend to be sober and fully committed to achieving peace with the MILF despite this setback.  They have labeled the Mamasapano incident as an unfortunate “misencounter” and have appealed to the public not to make any hasty conclusions until an investigation to be carried out by a PNP Board of Inquiry can determine the “truth”.
But the truth is Mr. Aquino and his clique of the closest “kabarkada” and “kabarilan” are hell bent on foisting a cover-up.

In the first place, more than a week after the incident, there is no admission as to who gave the go signal for what an Interaksyon editorial called a “fatally flawed mission”.  Aquino, when asked by the media categorically whether he himself okayed it, hemmed and hawed and ended up saying his specific approval was unnecessary since there were standing warrants of arrest for the two high-value targets.

Nonetheless, it can be concluded, from his claim that he had repeatedly stressed in briefings the need for coordination, that he was continuously briefed on the progress of the operation and therefore had – or could have had — full and constant knowledge of it.

What has also eventually emerged as a fact is that SAF Director Napenas was directly reporting to suspended PNP chief Purisima, bypassing superior officers in the line of command up to PNP OIC Espina.  Purisima in turn was directly reporting to Aquino, bypassing SILG Mar Roxas.  This breakdown in the line of command, especially in giving Purisima the authority to direct the operations, is by itself highly anomalous and unjustifiable, even if the operation had been successful.

There is no need for any investigation to determine the immediate cause of the disaster.  It was the deliberate decision not to coordinate with both the MILF and the AFP.  It is clear that there was no coordination on several levels and fronts between the police and armed forces, from the SAF commandoes and army units on the ground up to the highest levels of command.

Within the police hierarchy, there was a clear breakdown in the chain of command, with the SAF Director Napenas neither informing nor reporting to the PNP Chief Espina, and instead directly reporting to suspended chief Purisima. Purisima, in turn did not inform nor report to DILG Secretary Roxas but to the President himself.

The MILF official statement sums up the lesson from the Mamasapano incident insofar as the peace process is concerned:  “The MILF have (sic) been in negotiations with the Philippine Government for some time now. During this time both parties have established protocols, ways of proceedings and mechanisms, which support and keep the peace.  Adherence to these mechanism (sic) have created a peaceful environment and lessened actual hostilities through the years.  lt is unfortunate but not entirely surprising that when parties do not follow these protocols lives are placed in harm’s way.”

What emerges is the picture of a clique in Aquino’s Cabinet, headed by no less than the Commander-in-Chief, breaking the chain-of-command and illegally placing a suspended police officer in charge of a suicidal mission – a mission fraught not only with untold dangers and operational complexity but imbued with wider and more serious political implications on the ongoing GPH-MILF peace negotiations, particularly the passage by Congress of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Some analysts attribute Aquino’s illegal and foolhardy reliance on Purisima and his coterie of trusted aides like Napenas to a combination of hubris, his eagerness to score propaganda points in the global “anti-terror” campaign, and just plain incompetent leadership.

What is overlooked however are the undeniable military and political stakes of the US Superpower in this bungled operation and their record of direct and indirect involvement in previous attempts to neutralize Marwan’s group.  This includes the 2012 use of armed drone strikes against a suspected hideout of Marwan in Sulu which resulted in scores of civilian fatalities and an unscathed Marwan.

The “actionable intelligence” that Aquino touted as key to the decision to mount the Mamasapano operation has been traced, according to news reports, to a US mole within the MILF.  This was allegedly verified through US drones and GPS tracking. Subsequently the US mobilized its Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) based in Mindanao for the latest operation; JSOTF forces were sighted in the aftermath of the Mamasapano operation.  The US would also have nixed coordinating with the MILF despite the dangers of a firefight between the SAF and MILF forces because of intelligence information that Marwan was being given sanctuary by the MILF.

Thus it comes as no surprise that a certified US puppet like Aquino would have had no second thoughts about giving the go-signal for the ill-conceived operation at the sacrifice of the lives of so many SAF personnel in exchange for the prospect of having bragging rights to Marwan’s neutralization.

Speculations are rife and the entire truth will have to await an impartial and thorough investigation.  But there are enough undisputed facts surrounding the Mamasapano disaster that point to an epic fail in intelligence and leadership, military and otherwise. #

Published I Business World
2 February 2015