MANILA – Sacked Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napenas Jr. revealed Tuesday he used a map provided by US counterparts for the planning and execution of Oplan: Exodus – the mission to neutralize terror suspect Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.
Speaking before the House joint committee probe, Napenas denied the claim of General Gener Del Rosario, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, that SAF officials used a Google map to show the location of embattled troops during the January 25 mission.
He then showed lawmakers a printout of the map, covered in plastic.
“Hindi po Google map ito. Military [map]. Meron din siyang grid references. Enhanced na mapa po ito, up to the nearest one meter,” he said.
“Kinuha po natin sa US counterparts.”
Napenas said the map was taken two weeks before Oplan: Exodus was launched. He noted that Google Maps usually have old information.
He said he also used aerial photos taken by the Philippine Air Force to form a mosaic of the area where Marwan and the two other terror suspects allegedly resided.
For his part, Del Rosario said he saw a “different, bigger” map that was presented to him by SAF Deputy Director Noli Talino and Superintendent Michael John Catindig Mangahis on the day of the Mamasapano mission.
Napenas’ revelation of the map bolsters previous reports that showed the involvement of the US in the Mamasapano operation. The US State Department had offered US$5 million for the arrest of Marwan, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah militant group.
Forty-four police commandos and 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters were killed in the January 25 incident, with both sides claiming the other side shot first.
A report by the police Board of Inquiry earlier disclosed that six Americans stayed overnight at the command post of Napenas to monitor the exact location of Marwan. Napenas and other SAF officers have admitted the Americans in the command post were in charge of real-time surveillance.
The former SAF chief also said he would give more details about the Americans in an executive session.
The Senate report, meanwhile, named a certain Alan Kurtz who supposedly engaged in training the SAF, and the use of a private contractor in the evacuation of wounded cops during the operation.
The report also mentioned how an American ordered Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), to fire the artillery during the Mamasapano mission.
“Pangilinan refused and told him, ‘Do not dictate to me what to do. I am the commander here!'” the report said.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Pangilinan confirmed the Senate report but said he did not know the identity and nationality of the person who gave the order.
“That is not my operation and I was not the one who brought the person to the operations,” he said.
He described the person as a “Caucasian-looking guy in civilian attire.”
A FLAWED PLAN
During Tuesday’s hearing, military officials denied claims that the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF limited the Armed Forces’ support for the beleaguered SAF troops.
Pangilinan said that in the early morning of January 25, the AFP did not have a clear picture of where the 84th SAF troops were and if there were civilians in the area.
“We need to straighten this out because ang nangyayari dito, we did not react, we did not help the SAF. Wala pong katotohanan yan…Why was artillery fired in the afternoon? Malaking malaki po ang pagkakaiba ng situation in the morning and the situation in the afternoon,” he said.
He said he only got information on the exact coordinates of the beleaguered SAF troops in the afternoon of January 25.
General Gener Del Rosario, commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade, earlier said he was briefed by both Talino and Mangahis about the location of the SAF troops as early as 7 a.m. of January 25.
He said the two SAF officers presented a Google Map, “which is different from the tactical map we are using sa brigade headquarters which is a military tactical map.”
“Tinuturo nila kung nasaan ang advance command post, nasaan ang first group, second group, third group at yung main effort…Wala silang sinasabing unit. Hindi ko alam yung 44th, 45th, 55th, 84th,” he said, referring to the SAF companies that were deployed in the area.
Del Rosario said the two SAF officers were silent when asked what type of reinforcements were needed at the time. He then proposed two action plans that would deploy foot soldiers and armored vehicles to guard weak spots near the highway and the extraction point of the SAF.
He said Talino then asked for artillery support, which prompted him to make a third action plan upon the request of the police general.
“Sabi ko: ‘Sir, delikado yan kasi di natin alam yung exact location ng main effort. Nasan ba yung lead element atsaka tail element?’ Hindi po masagot ni Talino at Mangahis,” he recalled.
He said Talino also indicated on the map the location of the SAF’s main effort. However, he pointed out that Talino could not give the exact location of the fighters attacking the SAF and if there were civilians in the area.
He also said he saw Mangahis was trying to contact somebody via cellphone.
Del Rosario said he relayed his recommendations to Pangilinan who approved the first two action plans but not the third. He said he and Pangilinan never discussed if the operation could affect the peace process.
After his conversation, he said he, Talino and Mangahis again consulted the map and finalized the plan.
“At least maganda na yung plano natin,” he recalled Talino as saying.
Del Rosario said troops, vehicles and the explosives ordinance and disposal teams were assembled at brigade headquarters for final briefing and prayer.
Mangahis himself volunteered to guide the mission to Barangay Tukanalipao where the fighting was ongoing. He said the military troops left the headquarters at 8:20 a.m.
For his part, Magdalo Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo said both the PNP Board of Inquiry and Senate committee reports have exposed the shortcomings in the SAF mission in Mamasapano.
“Flawed po yung plan. Single entry and single exit. Walang consideration for artillery and air support, nakalagay lang ‘as necessary.’ Walang annex or coordinating instructions for that,” he said.
Acedillo blamed Napenas for pushing through with the plan despite the late jump-off to Mamasapano. Napenas had earlier admitted that the SAF teams arrived at Marwan’s house at around 4 a.m. instead of late night when it was still dark.
He also said Napenas failed to plan for contingencies and exposed his men to a superior force.
He criticized the ex-SAF chief for trying to pin the blame on the military instead of admitting his own faults.
“Total command and control sa tingin ko wala. The plan was flawed. Let us not pass judgment if we also have shortcomings,” he said.