By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
If you have monitored the Senate hearings on the January 25 Mamasapano tragedy and the media reportage, can you adjudge as truthful the government assertion that there was no American involvement in the planning and execution of Operation Plan Exodus to “take down” Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Abdul Basit Usman?
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted as definitively telling reporters: “The bottom line is the plan of the operation is 100 percent Filipino, the execution is also 100 percent Filipino. So no US participation.”
How could he be so sure? At the Senate hearing, DFA Underscretary Evan Garcia explained:
“On the alleged American participation in Mamasapano, we respectfully defer to our colleagues for operational details. However, in our discussion with the United States, we have ascertained that the plan and execution were 100 percent Filipino.”
How? Secretary del Rosario verified with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg the persistent reports on the American role in the operations (disclosed to reporters by SAF officers on condition of anonymity). Of course Goldberg denied the reports, and it was like god speaking! Garcia told the senators:
“And we have confirmed that there is no US involvement in the operation. The operation, as far as we can determine, was Filipino planned and implemented.”
Sen. Ralph Recto sought to ferret out the truth from Police Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander. Napeñas confirmed the following:
• “US counterparts” shared intelligence data in preparing the “intelligence packet” on Marwan and Usman. (When the senators questioned SAF intelligence chief Fernando Mendez about the packet, his disclosures, made in executive session, were not discussed in the public hearing. Will they stay secret?).
• US counterparts were with Napeñas and other SAF officers at the tactical command post in Sharif Aguak; they monitored the Mamasapano operation on the ground.
• The US military (Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines) sent aircraft to evacuate the slain and wounded SAF commandos in BarangayTukanalipao.
Furthermore, Napeñas stated:
“We have a US counterpart at the Seaborne (the SAF 84th Company that assaulted Marwan’s hideout and reportedly killed him) working with them in terms of training and equipment provision. The maps used were part of what they give us during the operations. But the US counterparts never took part in actual operations.”
At the very least, what Napeñas has confirmed indicate that the US counterparts participated in planning the operation – having provided the intelligence data and the maps used –and, jointly with Napeñas, monitored its execution using drones. Though initially turning out partly successful, the operation ended in tragic debacle for the SAF.
Shouldn’t the “US counterparts” then be called to share accountability for what went wrong, rather than shield them entirely from blame?
There’s another important detail in the botched operation that must be clarified. Performing a sheriff’s function, the PNP-SAF was reportedly set to serve warrants of arrest on Marwan and Usman. Nothing wrong if the warrants were issued by a Philippine court or courts.
But what has been repeatedly mentioned in media reports were warrants emanating from the US. which included Marwan and Usman in its “top terrorists” list with $5-million and $1-million bounties, respectively, for their arrest or “neutralization.” The reports gave the impression the SAF may have illegally acted as sheriff for the US government.
The STAR report on Wednesday, however, cites criminal cases for “multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder” presumably filed against the duo in unidentified Philippine courts: Criminal Case 552-2007 against Marwan (along with a “US Warrant CR 07-00501-02-JI”); and Criminal Case 515-2006 against Usman.
Now, there’s an intriguing aspect to CC 552-2007. The case, coupled with CC 551-2007, has been used to arbitrarily arrest and detain a number of persons on probably trumped-up charges.
One of them is Zam Edris, arrested on Dec. 2, 2011 and now held at the BJMP detention area in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City. Edris was only 15 years old when the arrest warrant used against him was issued on Dec. 18, 2007. Moreover it bore not his name, but one “Sauman Usman.”
Another is Badrudin Dalungan. He was first arrested, detained and charged with illegal possession of firearms. After the court dismissed the case and ordered him freed, he was slapped with CC 551-2007 and CC 552-2007 in connection with the bombing of Shem Marketing in Kidapawan City. The arrest warrant used against him bore the names “Guimaluddin Edzrafil” and Maueya Abubakar.
Edris and Badrudin were among detainees held at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame whose cases were documented in April 2012 by political detainee Alan V. Jazmines. He referred to them as “victims of grossly unjust arrest, arbitrary and illegal arrest, detention and prosecution, torture and other grave human rights violations.”
Jazmines, a National Democratic Front peace consultant, sent his documentation to the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, Public Attorney’s Office, and the Senate committees on justice and social justice, calling for urgent actions to redress the detainees’ grievances.
Their cases are similar to the 70-plus Muslim civilians who, in 2001-2002, were rounded up in Basilan and thrown in jail without coherent charges, all victims of the US “war on terror” carried out in Mindanao. Today many of them are still detained in Bicutan.
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Published in The Philippine Star
February 28, 2015