Transcript: Sen. Bongbong questions resource persons on the 3rd day of Senate hearings on the Mamasapano incident
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Sen. Bongbong: Let me continue with the line of questioning that I had started yesterday. Gen. Napenas during the Jan. 9 meeting with Gen. Purisima, with Gen. Mendez and the President, hinanap ba ng Pangulo si Gen. Espina? Napenas (No, your honor). Hindi niya sinabi nasaan si DDG? Napenas (No, your honor)
Sen. Bongbong: Gen. Purisima did the President look for Gen. Espina in your Jan 9 meeting in the Palace?
Purisima: No, your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: No. So he was not surprised that Espina was not there and he went on with the meeting despite the fact that the acting Chief PNP was not there. We have heard the testimony today from the different officers. Gen. Catapang at no point did you inform the President that there was a firefight going on where we were suffering casualties, the PNP SAF were suffering casualties.
Gen. Catapang: No your honor but in the afternoon it became very clear that indeed we had suffered
Sen. Bongbong: How did it become clear then?
Gen. Catapang: When Gen. Guerrero already informed there were already casualties in the field.
Sen. Bongbong: So it was Gen. Guerrero who informed the President?
Gen. Catapang: When he was talked to.
Sen. Bongbong: So the first person to inform the President that there was a firefight, an encounter and we are beginning to suffer heavy casualties, the first time was Gen. Guerrero informing the president, is that correct?
Gen. Catapang: We are not yet confirmed on how many casualties we had.
Sen. Bongbong: I know. The question I’d like answered is who was the first person to inform the President that there is a firefight in Mamasapano, there is an operation it has gone wrong and we are beginning to suffer heavy casualties. Who informed the President of that first?
Gen. Catapang: Your honor, I do not know, may I ask my field commanders if they can be allowed to?
Sen. Bongbong: No, the field commanders are only reporting to you and you were next to the President so I presume you would be the closest one. From the side of the PNP I know that Sec. Mar could not have been the one because he did not know of the operation. Gen. Espina, did you at any point transmit the information to the President?
Gen. Espina: No sir.
Sen. Bongbong: What I am trying to find out, Gen. Purisima did you at any point when you heard that at 530 a.m. you were already requesting assistance from the AFP, did you at that point inform the President, I am requesting assistance from the AFP because yung mga tropa ko ay napasabak at mukhang marami na tayong casualties?
Gen. Purisima: Your honor that was the essence of my request here to clear the…
Sen. Bongbong: So at this public hearing today we are being told that we do not know or we cannot be told when the President was first informed about the firefight between the MILF, the BIFF and the PNP-SAF.
Gen. Purisima: Your honor that is why I am requesting because in those communication between me and the President, your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: When did the President know that Marwan had been killed? Ano ang report sa inyo ni Gen. Napenas, Bingo Mike 1, ang communication?
Napenas: It’s Mike 1 Bingo.
Sen. Bongbong: Ok so Mike 1 Bingo when was that information relayed to the President? After you received that information, Gen. Napenas what did you do with that information.
Napenas: I informed the OIC PNP thru text message and I also informed Gen. Purisima , thru text message your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Gen. Espina did you forward that information to anyone, to Gen. Purisima or to the President or to SILG?
Espina: Sir about Marwan I am not so sure. Ang nakalagay kasi doon HBT, so it is just ordinary. Pero napapanenkwentro ng 530 a.m. ang naging instinct ko Sir tumawag kay Gen. Guerrero tulungan sila. Yung encounter na kakailanganin nang alalay. Pero Marwan I am still trying to…
Sen. Bongbong: Ok If you could get that information….Gen. Guerrero did you inform the President at any point that there was a firefight and we were beginning to suffer heavy casualties?
Gen. Guerrero: Madam Chair, your honor. I was told to brief on the situation in Central Mindanao at around 1700 H or 5 p.m. your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: So at that briefing the President was present.
Gen. Guerrero: Yes Sir.
Sen. Bongbong: So your briefing was about the firefight of the PNP-SAF in Mamasapano against the BIFF and MILF?
Gen. Guerrero: Yes your honor. That is based on the information that I am getting from my division commander, it is very vague, not complete. We were just trying to update him on what we learned about the incident from my division commander, your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Did the President issue any instructions having found out there was a firefight going on?
Gen. Guerrero: At that time we were already discussing the condition of, or the state of 84th SAC .
Sen. Bongbong: What were the instructions of the President to you upon finding out that we are beginning to suffer heavy casualties?
Gen. Guerrero: We were discussing about the possibility of reinforcing them but it was already being done by the 6th Infantry Division.
Sen. Bongbong: So he did not give you any instructions as what to do?
Gen. Guerrero: The guidance is to reinforce or rescue the group so my general guidance to my division commander is to do his best effort.
Sen. Bongbong: What do you mean by guidance? This came from the President, this came from your superior commander. What guidance was that?
Gen. Guerrero: We were in the briefing room, your honor. In the presence of the President, the Chief of Staff, the SND.
Sen. Bongbong: What were the instructions to you or any of the officers by the President upon him finding out that there was a firefight and we were suffering heavy casualties, in that briefing?
Gen. Guerrero: In that briefing your honor, at about 1700H I was discussing about the 84th SAC so this is the main effort we found out later on. So the guidance is ensure that there is no friendly fire because we are doing a link up operation.
Sen. Bongbong: So the instructions to you were to ensure no friendly fire. There were no instructions as to extrication, ex-filtration of our?
Gen. Guerrero: We are already doing that your honor. SSBBM: Ah ok alright so…
Sen. Bongbong: Again so there were no instructions specific to you by the President after your briefing? Apparently not.
Sen. Bongbong: Gen. Pangilinan, you said that you were following doctrine which was well understood kaya hindi kayo nagpaputok ng fire mission dahil nga hindi maliwanag ang location ng mga pwersa. However, if there had been a direct order from the President to conduct a fire mission in support of the PNP SAF who were pinned down would you have ordered that fire mission?
Gen. Pangilinan: Your honor just the same I will follow what is the doctrine?
Sen. Bongbong: So you would not have followed the President’s order to fire even if it was danger close?
Gen. Pangilinan: No your Honor, unless…unless…
Sen. Bongbong: You would have defied a direct order from the President?
Gen. Pangilinan: Because there is a doctrine that we need to follow unless the one that is requesting that it be fired, it be fired from his position, the one that is requesting is the one that is engaged, probably your Honor.
Sen. Bongbong: So if those under fire had requested to “fire upon my own position” you would have ordered that fire mission but if the President ordered it you would not have done it?
Gen. Pangilinan: Yes, your Honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Well, I’m a little bit surprised because a direct order from the Commander-in-chief, you will defy a direct order from the Commander-in-chief. But anyway, thank you very much. Gen. Catapang in your previous testimony you said ayaw kong magpalipad ng aking air asset dahil baka ma-misenterpret ng MILF sasabihin nilang atake na ito? Is that correct.
Gen. Catapang: Yes your Honor.
Sen. Bongbong: So it was more important to you to save the peace process rather than save the lives of our policemen. Dahil namili ka e, you prioritized e, you prioritized the peace process or the ceasefire over the lives of our PNP SAF officers.
Gen. Catapang: Your honor, there was no request for a air support from the PNP SAF.
Sen. Bongbong: I would like to go back to the record and titingnan natin, but I will find the record where its very very clear that all support, that any support, I know that Gen. Napenas called everybody he knew. But anyway this is a….now we have a division commander telling us that he will defy a direct order from the President and now we are hearing that the Chief of Staff is prioritizing the peace process over the lives of our PNP SAF. So I’m very very surprised because we talked about doctrine here—that is not in military doctrine.
Now, I’d like to go now to the problem, we’ve talked about command and control, I’d like to now talk about the coordination process. Gen. Orense, you are the GRP AJAG in position. In the report of the AFP at 5:37 am 25 January the Chairman of the GPH AJAG tried to reach MILF AJAG and could not contact them, is that correct?
Gen. Orense: Yes your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Okay, so that is 5:37 am. 4:00 pm was the total ceasefire…tama ba yung aking mga oras?
Gen. Orense: 4:00 in the afternoon sir
Sen. Bongbong: 4 PM, yes, 1600 of 25 January
Gen. Orense: Yes you honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Would you tell me what happened between 5:37 am when you first tried to contact MILF AJAG until the total ceasefire until 1600 of 25 January?
Gen. Orense: yes, your Honor. Actually sir it’s not 5:37. I called him up at about 5:48 in the morning but unfortunately his phone could not be reached. So I made another callabout 6:38 your Honor and the phone just kept on ringing. Then at about 7:31 he was the one who called up and he informed me that there was already something that was actually unusually happening, I asked him about the inability of not making contact with him. Sabi ko sa kanya Atty. Dataya, attorney kanina pa ako tumatawag sa iyo pero di kita makontak.
His retort was pasensya ka na sa isang 73-year old na sakitin na matanda, I need rest. Sabi nyang ganon.
Sen. Bongbong: That was at what time, Gen. Orense?
Gen. Orense: 7:31 your Honor.
Sen. Bongbong: In the account of the AFP, 7:30 Maj. Sol of GPH CCCH contacted the International Monitoring Team, is that correct? In fact tumawag pa sa iyo dahil meron sa account ninyo: “Commander 6IB called Chairman GPH AJAG if he has contacted his counterpart, e wala pa. But at 7:30 am Major Sol started to organize, well contacted the International Monitoring Team and started to organize the Joint Ceasefire Crisis Team, is that correct?
Gen. Orense: Yes your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Very well, so what happened at that point? So hindi ninyo nakontak yung MILF AJAG at all?
Gen. Orense: He was the one who called up at about 7:1 your honor and from then on we kept communicating with each other with regards to the events that was unfolding sir.
Sen. Bongbong: So at 7:31 am of the 25th of January, MILF AJAG calls chairman GPH AJAG, and he has informed he will call the Rapanan?
Gen. Orense: Yes your Honor. Actually sir he said he would call the Rapanan to make some more coordinations. If you will remember sir the other day, I presented the levels of coordination starting from the operating units up to the MILF AJAG sir and that was the one that he did because he had to inform also the Central Committee what’s happening. What I am saying here your honor is that the Central Committee, I believe, would have to take actions on what’s happening. It’s already beyond the AJAG what’s happening sir, it’s already the CCCH at that time, your honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Thank you, I understand. Okay, so by 7:31 am MILF AJAG was already informed of the situation on the ground, that is what we have in the account, is that correct?
Gen. Orense: Yes your Honor.
Sen. Bongbong: Alright. But it took nine hours until the total ceasefire. In fact the other, at 11: 45 the Joint Ceasefire Crisis Team had a dialogue with Guma who is the 105th base commander, is that correct?
Gen. Orense: Yes your Honor and it’s already the take of the CCCH at that time.
Sen. Bongbong: So Chairman Iqbal how is it that it took close to 5 hours upon your knowing that there was a misencounter—as you like to charaterize it—until the firing stopped. Bakit ganun katagal, and I can only speculate how many people died between 11:45 when the JCCT, when the JCCT dialogue with Guma occurred, and the total ceasefire at 4:00 pm. Why did it take so long? Alam na ng commander ng 105th, na gobyerno ang kaharap nila, bakit nag-antay ng halos 5 oras bago natigil ang putukan?
That is my last question. I would just like to point out the inefficiencies and the ineffectiveness of this coordinating dahil lagi nating nababalitaan, lagi nating naririnig na hindi nag-coordinate ang kapulisan, nag-coordinate sila 5:37 pa lang pero natigil ang putukan alas-4:00 ng hapon. Chairman Iqbal, please explain how it took so long and why this mechanism, which it seems was followed, did not even, did not effect a cease fire until close to 11 hours later at through which time I can only imagine how many SAF troopers had been killed?
Chairman Iqbal: Well I talked to the chairman of the MILF coordinating committee on cessation of hostilities or the ceasefire and I even talked to the head of the international monitoring team and their statement was that, they attribute the length of the effectivity of the ceasefire on collapse of commucation. But as to what really happened, why it happened that way, I think the proper personalities to answer that your Honor would be the CCCH of the MILF, the CCCH of the government and the members of the International Monitoring Team because I understand that they were already on the ground trying to effect a ceasefire between the two groups.
Sen. Bongbong: Thank you madam chairman, no more questions but just a statement, we still have to find out and it has to be explained to us, because it is constantly being said that this happened because of lack of coordination with the MILF. The coordination began with the MILF at 5:37 am 25 January. The fighting stopped at 4:00 pm of 25 January. That is 10 1/2 , 11 hours. Now the coordination had already began but it took 11 hours for the MILF to stop shooting at our forces. That, I think, puts spade to the idea that the coordination was not there. The coordination was there. It was attempted but it was not implemented until 11 hour later by which time many of our troopers, by which time by 4:00 o clock lahat ng namatay, patay na. So that is the extent of my interpellation.
Gen. Orense: The coordination is very important so that the firing should not start. Because once the firing starts it’s very hard to separate, by experience.
Sen. Bongbong: But Guma already knew that the forces in front of him were government forces, the joint dialogue with Buma was at 11:00 am.