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Napeñas: PNoy didn’t know of US role in Mamasapano mission

Relieved Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) chief General Getulio Napeñas Jr. on Wednesday said President Benigno Aquino III did not have any knowledge about the United States' involvement in the SAF operation which led to the death of over 60 people in late January.

At the third day of the House of Representatives' hearing on the bloody Mamasapano incident, Napeñas said Aquino was not briefed about the extent of the participation of the US military in the SAF operation dubbed as Oplan Exodus.

“Hindi ko po nasabi sa kanya 'yun, your honor, at hindi ko na po na follow-up,” Napeñas said when asked by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio on whether Aquino was made aware that the US was involved in intelligence gathering and medical evacuation aspects of Oplan Exodus.

Napeñas said that on Jan. 9, when he briefed Aquino at the Malacañang's Bahay Pangarap about the SAF's preparations for Mamasapano operation, the issue of US involvement was not discussed.

“Di pa po ako aware sa intelligence aspect at that time kaya hindi ko po ito na-discuss sa kanya,” Napeñas said.

Napeñas said the US military supplied to the SAF the comprehensive map of the target area in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town just three days before the implementation of Oplan Exodus on January 25.

Napeñas he requested a chopper from the US military for the evacuation of the injured SAF troopers on the same day of the encounter and not prior to the implementation of the operation.

“So, hindi alam ni Pres Aquino na may mga sundalong Amerikano na involved sa operation?,” Tinio asked.

“Definitely hindi po. Wala pong nakapagsabi sakanya,” Napeñas said.

Napeñas, in earlier hearing of the Senate, said there were six US soldiers at the SAF command post in Maguindanao during the January 25 implementation of the operation to arrest wanted terrorists Zulikfli bin Hir alias Marwan, Malaysian bomb maker Amin Baco, and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman.

He also said that the US troops provided the intelligence on Marwan who was killed during the operation. Napeñas, however, said that these US soldiers did not participate in the actual combat.

On Wednesday's hearing Napeñas said these six US soldiers belonged to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which was conducting joint military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Tinio, meanwhile, bucked Napeñas' claim that Aquino was not aware that the US was providing intelligence information for Oplan Exodus.

“I think hindi accurate yung sinasabi ni Napeñas dahil may text si Pangulo kay Secretary (Mar) Roxas at sinasabi niya (Aquino) na mag-ingat lang daw sa pag-uusap hinggil sa Oplan Exodus to protect the intelligence sources. So alam ng Pangulo na galing sa US ang intelligence information,” Tinio said.

Tinio also bucked De Lima's statement at an earlier point of the hearing that foreign forces such as the US military may participate in local military and law enforcement operations as long as the Philippine government has absolute control over these operations.

“Contrary to an earlier statement, wala pong legal basis ang joint operations ng US military at ng PNP. Kung US military at AFP walang problema, pero kung ang US military ay involved sa operation ng PNP, hindi saklaw ng VFA yan,” Tinio said.

Tinio said Aquino should be held liable for allowing the US involvement in the Mamasapano operation.

“That is illegal and unconstitutional, kasama ito sa mga dapat harapin ni Pangulong Aquino. He should be held accountable for allowing the unconstitutional violation of the rules on sovereignty,” Tinio said.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino meanwhile, reiterated the DFA's earlier statement that Oplan Exodus was “100 percent PNP-led and PNP-controlled” operation.

For her part, De Lima maintained that the US participation in local anti-terrorism activities was allowed under the VFA.

“I disagree with the statement of Tinio that there is no legal basis... It is very clear that anti-terrorism activities should be done in cooperation with interested foreign governments like the United States which is at the forefront of the global fight against terrorism,” De Lima said.

“The VFA did not specifically enumerated the anti-terrorism activities, the very rationale is to give enough elbow room and flexibility. There is a blanket authority to engage in certain activities that is in conformity with the spirit of the agreement – and the spirit of the agreement is security cooperation against various threats,” De Lima added. —NB, GMA News