MANILA (UPDATED) - Resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima was again placed on the hot seat on Tuesday as he was repeatedly asked by senators why he "ordered" the director of the Special Action Force (SAF) to keep PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in the dark about the Mamasapano operation.
At the continuation of the Senate inquiry this morning, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. grilled Purisima, who was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman last December for a graft case, on why he felt the need to keep Espina and Roxas out of the loop in connection with the January 25 operation.
"This is not only usurpation of authority. This is also breaking the chain of command... You, as a suspended chief PNP, were issuing orders to keep the acting chief PNP in the dark on a very critical mission," Marcos told Purisima.
Purisima, however, refused to accept the senator's statement that he issued an order to relieved SAF director Getulio Napeñas, insisting that he merely gave him advice prior to the execution of the mission to take down terror suspects Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.
"I did not give any orders. I gave advice," Purisima maintained.
But Marcos pointed out that Purisima's supposed advice was nonetheless followed as an order by Napeñas, who coordinated with Espina as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) only when the SAF troopers were already engaged in a firefight with Muslim rebels in the morning of January 25.
Forty-four elite police commandos were killed in the bloody encounter with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Marcos asked Purisima if the reason why he wanted to keep the two officials out of the loop was because he did not trust them. Purisima said no.
"Hindi po ganun. Ang nakasaad po sa plano ng PNP SAF ay 'time on target,'" Purisima said. "The operation said that it should be 'time on target' for everybody. So I just followed the principle on the 'time on target.'"
He added that the "advice" was "for operational security purposes."
In connection with Purisima's answer, Senate President Franklin Drilon later also asked the suspended and resigned PNP chief: "So you did not trust the operational security responsibility of the two gentlemen?"
But Purisima again insisted, "I was already suspended. I was only giving an advice... That is not a judgment. That is only an advice to the director of SAF."
Drilon then stated, "I give up."
NO DIRECT ORDER FROM PNOY
During the inquiry, Purisima noted that his advice to Napeñas was not cleared with President Benigno Aquino III.
He said during his meeting with the President, he and Aquino talked about "something personal" and not about the Mamasapano operational plan.
Napeñas, likewise, stressed that he did not receive any direct order from the President to push through with the mission or abort it.
He said on the two occasions that he joined Purisima for a mission update with Aquino, he was never given any guidance that the operation is a "go" or a "no-go."
"Maybe there are some people who would like to hear if there was really a direct order or approval from the President for the mission to go, there was none. That was really the truth. But then yun pong dalawang okasyon na nagpunta ako, it can be interpreted that there was implied or tacit approval that the mission is a go operation, considering na walang sinabi sa akin, walang guidance na hindi na tuloy ang order," he said.
"There was no direct order from the President telling me to proceed or directly telling me that mission is approved."
"If there was direct order from the President that the mission is a go, that would have been a very good opportunity for me and a situation where I could break the chain of command, considering that the order would have come from the President," Napeñas added.
The relieved SAF commander also said he did not receive any guidance from Purisima to defer, delay, continue or implement the mission.
Napeñas, however, had earlier admitted that he followed Purisima's "advice" not to inform Espina and Roxas about the execution of the Mamasapano operation despite his suspension as PNP chief.
He said he followed Purisima because he was the one being asked by the President regarding the intricacies of the mission.
"Wag mo munang sabihan yung dalawa. Saka na pag nandun na," he recalled Purisima as saying, pertaining to Espina and Roxas. "Ako na ang bahala kay [AFP chief of staff] General [Gregorio] Catapang."
When asked about his supposed coordination with Catapang, Purisima told the Senate that he did inform the AFP chief but also when the SAF operation was already ongoing, at 5:30 a.m. of January 25, because of the "time on target" principle.
Napeñas, for his part, sent a text message to Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, at 6:18 a.m., informing him of the SAF troopers' encounter with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano.
His text message contained the grid coordinates of the location of the elite cops.
Pangilinan admitted that he received Napeñas' text message, but noted that there was no request for reinforcement from the AFP.
"Sa akin pong pagbasa at paghihimay-himay, pag inintindi po natin ito, walang urgency. Wala pong mention of request for reinforcement. Ito lang po ay pagpapaalam na sila po ay naengkwentro. Maliwanang po... It was not even addressed to me," he said.
He added that they were not aware of the SAF operation so they still had to get details regarding the elite cops' plan and targets.
"I do not have a picture of what was going on because there was no prior coordination to us regarding conduct of operations of the PNP SAF," he said.
But Pangilinan said he nonetheless instructed all ground commanders to prepare their available forces for reinforcement. "Wala pong katotohanan na hindi kami tumulong. We reinforced (SAF)," he said.
"Siguro po kung may coordination, I could have mustered more troops, I could have requested for aerial support, kung nalaman ko lang earlier yung kanilang plano," he said.