I Salute Our Noble and Gallant Warriors: Opening statement of former PNP-SAF commander Getulio Napeñas during the Senate probe on Mamasapano clash

SAF

Members of PNP-SAF during the arrival honors given to their fellow commandos after the bloody encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25. Image from PNP

                               

                                                     “I Salute Our Noble and Gallant Warriors”

 Opening Address of  former PNP-Special Action Force commander P/Dir. Getulio Pascua Napeñas  

Delivered during Senate inquiry on Mamasapano clash at Session Hall 9 February 2015

To our Honorable Senators, the officials and men and women of both the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and to everyone inside the Session Hall, as well as to those who are watching in their respective homes, MAGANDANG UMAGA PO SA INYONG LAHAT MAHAL NAMING MGA KABABAYAN.

First of all, allow me to introduce myself. Ako po si Getulio Pascua Napeñas, tubong Luna, La Union, 55 years old, married, and a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Class of 1982, with SN 0-00289, with the present rank of Police Director.

I have been in the government service since 1978 when I entered the Military or for more than thirty-six (36) years now.

After graduation from the PMA, I was immediately assigned in Central Mindanao with the 54th Philippine Constabulary Battalion, PC/INP Regional Command 12. A year later, I underwent the Ranger Course with the Special Action Force followed by Urban Counter Revolutionary Warfare Course. While assigned in PC/INP RECOM 12, I handled positions as Company Commanders of three (3) different tactical companies based in Parang, Maguindanao, Iligan City, and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat Province until 1988. Thereafter, I was assigned at the HQs Philippine Constabulary Training Division until 1991. In May 1992, I joined the PNP Contingent to the United Nations Mission in Cambodia then returned on October 1993.

In January 1995 to November 1996, I was the Force Director, Regional Mobile Force (RMF) ARMM that garnered the National Award as the best RMF of the year and also received a special promotion to the next higher rank ahead of my classmates.

I worked for a couple of years at the Directorate for Logistics, NHQ PNP then returned to another UN Mission, this time in East Timor from 2000 to 2001 followed by another UN Mission in 2002 to 2004.

I returned to PNP SAF in 2004 as the Chief Directorial Staff then moved as Provincial Director, South Cotabato Police Office in 2005 to 2006 which garnered the National Award as Best Provincial Police of the Year 2006.

In 2007, I acted as Chief, Records Management Division until 2008, and from there, I returned once again to PNP SAF as the Chief Directorial Staff then as Deputy Director where I received my first star in 2010. Thereafter, I served as the Regional Director, Police Regional 13 in CARAGA Region then once again returned to PNP SAF for the fourth time in December 2013.

I attended various courses in the military, police and civilian schools both in country and abroad: PNP Career Courses, Executive Course on National Security at the National Defence College of the Philippines; Integrating Counter-Terrorism Strategies at the National Level, Police Leader’s Role in Combating Terrorism, Senior Level Crisis Management, Vital Installation Security and Instructor Development Course from the US Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program; Tactical Intelligence Course at the United States Army Intelligence School, Fort Huachuca, Arizona and International Strategic Leadership Program at the United Kingdom Police College. I also obtained two (2) Master Degrees; Master in Public Administration and Business Management and Level 7 Executive Diploma in Strategic Management, Chartered Management Institute, United Kingdom.

And contrary to the very misleading reports, specifically the one mentioned by Retired Police Chief Supt Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza, I am not, I was not, and I will never be a “bata” of PDG PURISIMA, neither of any official from both the military and the police, nor of any politician or person for that matter. In fact, before PDG PURISIMA became the Chief PNP, I have never been under his command in whatever capacity in my entire career.

I can look anyone, and I mean anyone, and tell him face-to-face that I worked my way up the ladder not because of my connections but because of my performance, perseverance, dedication, impregnable credibility unshakable dignity and integrity.

As we all know, the main target of our operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao was the Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir aka “Marwan.”

Marwan was the maker of bombs delivered for usage to several terrorist groups, like the Abu

Sayyaf. He was a well-known supplier of bombs to various terrorist groups. He was also teaching terrorists how to create bombs. Marwan was a close associate of Azahari Husin, a fellow Malaysian terrorist both were believed to be the technical masterminds behind the 2002 Bali bombing.

The Jemaah Islamiyah is the main cause of the devastating 2002 Bali bombing, an attack that killed at least two hundred two (202) innocent civilians, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 Britons, 7 Americans, 6 Swedes and 3 Danes, and injured not less than 209 civilians, on top of many other attacks in South Eastern Asia.

Marwan was also in charge of the South Eastern Asian and Indonesian terrorist group called the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia or KMM. The KMM is a part of the international terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, of which Marwan was believed to be part of its central command.

In other words, Zulkifli Bin Hir aka “Marwan” is the most notorious Bomb Expert not just here in Southeast Asia but also in the entire world. This is the reason why he was named as one of Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted men in the world after the fall of Bin Laden.

For the past four years, we had several intelligence reports that Marwan was hiding in Mindanao under the protection of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Though as early as 2003, there were already information that Marwan was hiding somewhere in Mindanao.

Marwan was likewise wanted by the Malaysian government for the killing of a Christian member of their Parliament in 2000, which was an attack that was backed by the fallen terrorist Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida. Marwan also had strong connections with deceased ASG leader Khadaffy Janjalani.

While hiding in Mindanao under the protection of the MILF and BIFF, he continued to stay involved in militant Islamic activities and terrorist bombings. There was information that, along with other South Eastern Asian militants, Marwan was engaged in the training of local jihadist volunteers to join the Islamic State. This information was gathered after the BIFF declared its allegiance to helping ISIL’s cause.

The reports are Marwan’s militant activity in Mindanao he may have trained up to 300 terrorists in explosives use, detonation, and building and one of his cohorts in such activity is the other target of our operation, Abdul Basit Usman.

Just recently, during Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines, we have information that the Jemaah Islamiyah, in coordination with Marwan, had planned to construct a bomb to be detonated as the Papal convoy drove down T.M. Kalaw Street in Manila on January 18, 2015. These reports were not confirmed neither admitted nor denied by the Philippine National Police. The fact, however, remains that there exists this information.

And just a couple of days ago, there were also reports that not less than thirty (30) of Marwan’s “students” are roaming around Central Mindanao, ready, willing and able to create widespread fear, terror and panic to our country through the use of Improvised Explosive Devices that Marwan and his men themselves assembled.

Our dear Senators and fellow countrymen, these undeniable facts and information clearly show the danger this Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli “Marwan” Bin Hir poses to the public.

THAT DANGER NO LONGER EXISTS.

Thanks to our new breed of forty-four (44) heroes, and the other members of PNP-SAF, who executed OPLAN EXODUS.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Honorable Senators, specially the Chairmen of the two Committees of the Senate, the Committee on Dangerous Drugs and Public Order and the Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, and its respective Chairperson, Senator Grace Poe and Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III for extending an invitation for me to attend the day and tomorrow’s hearing in aid of legislation.

I felt vindicated since the day I received the invitation from these two Honorable Committees of the Senate and told myself, “Finally, I will be given the fair opportunity, in an appropriate forum, to shed light as to what really transpired during our operation last January 25, 2015, at Barangay Tukalanipao, Marnasapano, Maguindanao.”

Ano po ang nais kong sabihin o iparating? Simple lamang po. It is not unknown to everyone that the death of our brave SAF Troopers, the Fallen 44, resulted to overflowing love, sympathy, affection, fondness, passion and predilection in their favor. And they really deserve it. They really do.

However, there is this misconception from the public saying that:

  1. Tila pinabayaan naming mga opisyal ang aming mga tauhan na pasukin ang lugar ng kalaban.
  2. Na walang maayos na pagpaplano at kahandaang isinagawa bago ang nasabing pagsugod.
  3. Na walang koordinasyon na nangyari sa pagitan ng mga kapulisan at ng mga sundalo.
  4. Na kami ay naging pabaya at ang kapabayaang ito ang naging dahilan kung bakit apatnaput-apat (44) sa aming mga kasamahan sa SAF ay di nagawa pang makabalik sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya.

My dear Senators and countrymen, THESE ARE FAR FROM TRUTH.

Nagkaroon po tayo ng mahaba, maayos at masusing pagpapaplano, paghahanda at koordinasyong naganap at isinagawa bago isinakatuparan ang nasabirig pagsugod sa Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Almost ten (10) years of my career were spent in my pursuit to serve justice to Marwan’s victims. It all started when I was still the Provincial Director, South Cotabato Police Office in 2005 wherein every minute the threats of bombing in the province existed. Though way back in the third quarter of 2003, there were already information that Marwan was hiding somewhere in Mindanao.

However, I started working directly against Marwan as early as 2010. That time; I was the Deputy Director, SAF. Later on, Abdul Basit Usman was also included among our targets.

In December 2010, I supervised the operation against Marwan in Sulu as the principal officer, but just our arresting troops arrive at his location, he escaped.

Sometime in July 2012, I also supervised the operations against Marwan in Butig, Lanao Sur. Again, he managed to escape just a few minutes before SAF troops arrived. PCSUPT NOEL DELOS REYES (Retired) who was then the Dep Director, Directorate for Intelligence how Marwan managed to escape.

Also in April 25, 2014, I supervised the operations against Marwan and Usman in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This was the one we called as “Oplan Wolverine.” Unfortunately, the same was aborted after the 6 ID, PA AFP withdrew its commitment to provide Mechanized Brigade units to support the operations. I supervised these operations as the SAF senior officer since Marwan and Usman are considered high value targets and operation against them is highly sensitive. The concept of this operation was approved by PDG PURISIMA, then Chief, PNP and presented during the executive session at NHQ PNP in the presence of His Excellency, the SILG, the Chief, PNP and PCSupt Noel Delos Reyes, RD, PRO ARMM who then provided the intelligence packet. After which, I personally presented the same briefing to PDDG Leonardo A. Espina, the then TDCO, in his office. I duly informed the Chief, PNP through phone stating therein the reason why the operation was aborted. The Chief, PNP told me that he will inform higher authorities regarding what happened.

Another operation in coordination with the AFP was launched in May 30, 2014. It was also aborted because of heavy armed groups’ activity in the target area, particularly at the vehicle drop off point.

Barely ten (10) days later, or on June 10, 2014, the 6th ID/Mech Brigade – PA all of a sudden conducted raid/ operation against Marwan and Usman at the same location without coordination from the SAF but they failed to neutralize Marwan and Usman.

These are just few of the reasons why in the succeeding operations, the coordination with the AFP will be time-on-target of the arresting force, in order to avoid the possibility that our operation would be compromised.

Of course, many of you will ask: What could be the reason why the operation will be compromised? The main reason is that the information and preparations of operations are leaked whenever major operations against high value targets are conducted as the subjects are being cuddled by the MILF whose members have a lot of contacts with the AFP and PNP, thus the high level of operation security and secrecy are necessary. The Director, PNP Intelligence Group is very much concerned of the compromise whenever coordination is done with the AFP including our own intelligence unit. And this is based on our past experiences.

Then around August 2014, then RD, ARMM, PCSupt Delos Reyes gave to me the grid coordinates of the possible new location of Marwan in Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. I also requested him to provide us with the route to the location since we did not know of any route going to the given grid coordinates. Also, we started intelligence preparation in the battlefield where we found out that the location is high risk because of the presence of thousands of MILF/BIFF and the difficult terrain.

In the early part of November 2014, one Sunday at around 10:00 o’clock in the evening, the PDG PURISIMA then Chief, PNP called up and instructed me to proceed to the White House, in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Upon arrival thereat, he instructed me to work with PSSUPT FERNANDO MENDEZ, Director, Intelligence Group as the new location of Marwan and Basit Usman was identified and told me that he has an agent in the area of the location.

I followed this instruction and was able to talk to the Director, IG and he told me that the actionable document was already in the hands of PSUPT RAYMUND TRAIN who works as SAF Intel Officer in the 84SAC (Seaborne Unit), Rapid Deployment Battalion.

This intel packet was subjected to long studies and served as basis in the mission planning of the group composed of the Director, SAF, PCSUPT NOLI TALINO, Deputy Director, SAF, PSSUPT AMANDO CLIFFTON EMPISO, Chief Directorial Staff, PSSUPT RICHARD DELA ROSA, Chief Intel and Investigation, PSUPT GREGORY BOGNALBAL, Chief of Operations; PSUPT MICHAEL JOHN MANGAHIS and PSUPT ABRAHAM ABAYARI, COs of 3rd Battalion and Rapid Deployment Battalions respectively, PSUPT TRAIN and PSI RECAREDO MARASIGAN, also an Intel Officer of SAF. Later on, the 84SAC (Seaborne Unit) Commander and the 5th Battalion Commander were also included in the mission planning. After which, an operation plan was prepared which I, together with PCSUPT TALINO, PSSUPT DELA ROSA, PSUPT MANGAHIS and PSUPT TRAIN, thereafter presented to PDG PURISIMA at the White House.

In response, PDG PURISIMA said: “Go, but I have to tell the President regarding this.”

This operation, which we called “Oplan Terminator”, was launched on November 29, 2014 but was aborted due to equipment failure while the arresting force was enroute to the target.

The reason of the abort and mission update was verbally reported to PDG PURISIMA at his quarters. Thereafter, we (myself, PCSUP TALINO, PSSUPT MENDEZ, PSSUPT DELA ROSA, PSUPT TRAIN) joined PDG PURISIMA to the Presidential Security Group Firing Range Compound in Malacanang Park on November 30, 2014 where PDG PURISIMA rendered mission update to His Excellency.

Another operation, the “Oplan Terminator 2″, was launched using tactical boats but the assault force was engaged by lawless group along the river approximately 3 kms going to the target in Barangay Tukalanipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The mission was, again, called off.

Due to the 2 failed missions, the use of precision-guided munition/bomb was considered. A coordination meeting was done at GHQ AFP, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on the third week of December, 2014 during the AFP Anniversary, attended by GENERAL GREGORIO CATAPANG, CSAFP; LTGEN RUSTIC GUERRERO, CG, WESMINCOM; MGEN EDMUND PANGILINAN, CG, 6ID, PDG PURISIMA and myself. It was in this meeting that LTGEN GUERRERO mentioned that they have the precision guided munition/bomb and even mentioned that they recently used it in: Basilan, thus, a coordination meeting was set up at the 3rd Air Force Division in Zamboanga City on December 23, 2014 for specific coordination of the operation. The attendees of the meeting were LTGEN GUERRERO, MGEN EMERALDO MAGNAYE, CG, 3rd Air Force Division, MGEN PANGILINAN, myself, PSUPT TRAIN. In the initial discussion of the meeting, it was revealed by MGEN MAGNAYE that the Air Force does not have its own precision-guided munition/bomb. This information was relayed to PSSUPT MENDEZ who was still on his way to the meeting and has in his possession the intel packet. This made PSSUPT MENDEZ not to proceed to the meeting to avoid providing the intel packet as the precision-guided munition/bomb that was agreed upon to be used in the operation was not available, thus, this concept of operation was ruled out.

Starting 23 December 2014, the Mission Planning Group once again get back to work, and mission planning begins.

On January 09, 2015, we (PDG PURISIMA, myself and PSSUPT MENDEZ) went to Malacañang and met His Excellency at the Bahay Pangarap for mission update and the new concept of operations. We named this operation as “Oplan Exodus.”

Under Oplan Exodus, coordination with the AFP will be time-on-target, in order to avoid another compromise.

His Excellency cited about the coordination with the AFP that he earlier stated in his press statement.

After the update, PSSUPT MENDEZ and myself went out while PDG PURISIMA stayed behind. It was when he came out that PDG PURISIMA stated “Huwag mo munang sabihan yong dalawa, saka na pag nadun na. Ako ang bahala kay Gen. Catapang.”

Before the end of December 2014, new communication systems were set up at the HQs 43SAC, 4SAB in Maguindanao PPO, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao which will serve as the TCP for the operations. Civilian trucks were rented to be used to avoid compromise in the entry of troops. On January 18, 2015, the Chief, Intel, COs 3SAB and RDB went to Zamboanga City and linked up with the 84SAC and 555AC, 5SAB for further mission planning and finalize the preparations of the operations. Rehearsals and exercises on movement at night to avoid detection including live firing were undertaken. Equipment were continuously checked and. prepared for the operations. The participating troops from Zamboanga City, Davao Sur, North Cotabato, Agusan Sur, Cotabato City and Gen Santos City moved to their respective staging areas on January 21 to 23, 2015.

Subsequently, the 3 Police Commissioned Officers moved to Gen Santos City for the final mission planning and coordination together with all the unit commanders and key personnel involved in the operation.

From the above, I believe it is clear that contrary to the unverified reports, the PNP-SAF did its best in the preparations and in the-planning of our operations against Marwan and Usman.

Unfortunately, and with heavy heart, I am very sorry to say that not all of our men who took part in OpIan Exodus did make it back alive.

Notwithstanding the above preparations and planning we made, just like in any other encounter, especially in this case where the subjects of the operations are high-value terrorists, zero-casualty is ideal, but it is highly uncertain.

The SAF Troopers who made their way to Barangay Tukalanipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao are highly trained individuals. They know what they are doing and know what to do in times of adversity and hostility. Had it been otherwise, the combined forces of the MILF, BIFF and other private armed-groups would have not suffered at least two hundred fifty (250) casualties in the midst of the firefight that took place almost the entire day!

The SAF Troopers, the noble and gallant warriors, believe that “evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” It is in SAF that good men gather together to fight against evil. These warriors fully understand the high risk in our profession and ready to lose their lives but NEVER our HONOR and DIGNITY.

And yes Madams and Sirs, you heard it right. Hindi po bababa sa dalawang daan at limangpung (250) katao ang naging casualty sa mga nakaengkwentrong pinangsanib na pwersa ng MILF, BIFF at iba pang private armed groups ng ating mga magigiting at matatapang na Bayani mula sa PNP-SAF.

To give you an example, PSUPT TRAIN alone, the Overall Commander of the Assault Force, was able to shoot down somewhere between twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) of the attackers. According to him, it is also safe to say that the entire Assault Force, the 84th Company, was able to shoot down at least one hundred fifty (150) of the enemies.

I also talked to PO2 Christopher Lalan, the lone survivor of the 55th Company, and he told me that at least one hundred (100) members of the combined forces of MILF, BIFF and private armed groups were taken down by SAF troopers from his Company, the 55SAC.

The 84th and 55th Company which took part in Optan Exodus also has two (2) and six (6) snipers, respectively, under their helm. For sure, these highly trained snipers could have shot down on the average at least 20 each from the attackers.

Not to mention are those taken down by our men from the 45th, 42nd and 41st Company who were likewise engaged in a firefight. The 43rd Company also has its own Armored Personnel Carrier (V150) which was firing almost the entire day. Likewise present are the 6 APCs from Army Mechanized Brigade who likewise continuously fire against the attackers. These will surely increase the number of casualties suffered by our enemies, contrary to the only eighteen (18) casualties as reported by the MILF.

In other words, had the artillery support, we requested arrived on time, the situation would have been entirely different. Though I admit, it may not have guaranteed zero-casualty on our part but at the very least, had the artillery support arrived hours earlier, the number of casualties would have been way lesser than the actual figure we suffered.

Sa madaling salita, at salungat sa kung ano ang mga nakasaad o nasusulat sa mga balita at pahayagan, ang mga SAF Troopers sa Barangay Tukanalipao ay nagtungo sa lugar na iyon nang may humigit pa sa sapat na paghahanda. Tamang pagpaplano. At higit sa lahat, hindi masusukat na tapang, pagmamahal, at pagmamalasakit para sa ating mahal na Inang Bayan. Mga katangiang tanging sa isang SAF Trooper lamang makikita.

Muli, ako po si Police Director General Getulio Pascua Napeñas, the former Chief of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force, and I stand firm with the words I uttered since the minute the news of this unfortunate event broke out.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Only that it happened with a high price. The lives of our forty-four (44) brave young men.

OUR HEROES. OUR TAGALIGTAS. THE SPECIAL ACTION FORCE TROOPERS OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE.

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