MANILA - Was the Mamasapano mission to take out terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan worth the lives of 44 elite police commandos?
No, according to Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Speaking to [email protected], Marcos said the Mamasano operation was not a "suicide mission" where all the Special Action Force (SAF) troopers sent to Mamasapano were supposed to give up their lives as long as the Malaysian bomb-maker was dead.
"Is it worth 44 dead to get the one terrorist? That's a very hard question. In my view, no. We did not send in these SAF members knowing that they were all going to die as long as we have Marwan. The intention was to get Marwan and bring out as many of our people as possible hopefully without casualties. That is always the ideal. Minimal casualties, as few as possible," he said.
"There is no calculus saying - di bale kung maubos lahat sila basta makuha natin yung gusto natin."
Marcos clarified he is not going against the claims of SAF commander Getulio Napenas when he said that it was "mission accomplished" for the PNP-SAF when they killed Marwan. This is after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that a DNA sample provided by Philippine authorities was from the terrorist.
"I think it was mission accomplished that, in a sense, that Marwan was neutralized. But again, was it a good mission? Because I don't think you can classify a mission where 44 were gunned down, some of the bodies even mutilated, as a good mission," he said.
"I don't think it was worth 44 lives."
The senator said there are too many questions about the Mamasapano operation, including the lack of coordination on the part of the Philippine National Police with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front before the plan was launched.
He said the plan was also not coordinated with the military, who were clueless about the operation until the PNP-SAF asked for assistance. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Leonardo Espina were also not informed about the plan since Napenas was getting his directions from suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima.
Finally, he also asked why the danger of the mission was not assessed in the planning stages.
"There are such things as suicide missions. Papasok di bale na mamatay kami. That was not the nature of this operation. The nature of this operation was to extract Marwan and bring him out to the government and actually serve a warrant of arrest."
"Not only the fact that these men died but the way they died now with the surrounding confusion, with the questions on the chain of command, the questions on the involvement of the suspended chief PNP, the President - what is his involvement? Where exactly? What happened? What is astounding to me is that it is two weeks on, all of these records are sitting in some files somewhere. I am sure it is already on the highest levels of the chain of command," he said.
The Senate is set to hold a public inquiry on the Mamasapano operation on Monday, February 9, and Tuesday, February 10. Several officials have been summoned to the hearings including suspended police chief Purisima.
Marcos said it is important for Purisima to speak up about why he ordered the SAF commander not to inform the PNP OIC about the Mamasapano operation until it was already underway. This is despite Purisima being suspended for a graft case before the Ombudsman.
"That is a breach of all kinds of protocol. It means you have no trust and confidence in your second-in-command," he said.
He said he is also perplexed why the President has chosen to keep silent about the incident except for his one public address last January 28.
"Who gave the final go?" he asked.
Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local governments, said he postponed hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law until the inquiry on the Mamasapano incident is finished.
The senator said the Mamasapano incident shows a failing in the systems that are already in place based on the initial agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
"We need to keep remembering that the point of the exercise is not just to pass a law. It is to try to find out a system that will bring lasting peace of Mindanao...If the Bangsamoro Basic Law is part of that, then let us pass it. We don't want partial success but complete success."