MANILA - After three weeks of hearings into the Mamasapano incident that led to the deaths of 44 members of the police Special Action Force in Maguindanao last January 25, senators have not looked deeply into who allowed then-suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to remain involved in the operation.
In the course of the hearings, it was revealed that despite Purisima's suspension by the Ombudsman in December, President Aquino communicated with Purisima regarding the operation. Purisima also gave inputs to then SAF chief Getulio Napenas .
It was also Purisima who approved Napenas' recommendation to launch the operation. Aquino was talking to Purisima the day the SAF clashed with Moro rebels in Mamasapano.
On Monday, it was revealed that Purisima also told the President that the SAF had military support, which was not the case.
During the Senate hearing Wednesday, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang refused to identify who led Oplan Exodus against wanted terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan.
Purisima took accountability but claimed that he delegated authority for the operation to Napenas after he was suspended.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said it was Purisima who was in control of the operation. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, meanwhile, said Purisima and Napenas were responsible.
Roxas said it was Purisima who wanted him and PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina out of the loop. "I wish to add that precisely whether it is advice or order, there was an overt attempt or effort to keep this (information about the operation) away from the OIC PNP and SILG."
Napenas said if he was ordered to coordinate with Espina beforehand instead of "time on target," he would have told the current PNP OIC about it.
Purisima said it was clear to him that there is a need to coordinate with the Armed Forces. He claimed that he facilitated a meeting between Napenas and the AFP chief in December.
Napenas, however, said it came a month before a separate meeting with President Aquino on January 9, wherein Aquino told him to coordinate with the AFP.
"There was a very clear misunderstanding that day " Senator Loren Legarda said.
Upon questioning by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Purisima said there was an order by President Aquino to inform Espina about the operation.
"I informed [Espina] on morning of January 25 and I confirm the order was given to me by the President."
Drilon pointed out that Purisima only informed Espina after the operation to get Marwan was launched. Purisima confirmed this.
Napenas said they could have done better with coordination with the AFP.
He thanked the military for its help but added that the operation would have had a different result if his request for mechanized and artillery assistance was granted.
This resulted in Napenas being admonished by Senator Grace Poe.
She said Napenas' acknowledgment of the AFP's efforts was diluted by blaming them.
Napenas' reluctant gratitude also resulted in an emotional response from 6th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan.
Pangilinan pointed out that Napenas continued to blame the AFP for the deaths of the SAF commandos.
"Ang hindi ko matanggap nagpasalamat pero just the same we are still blamed for the deaths," he said, turning emotional. "Nag-usap po tayo. Marami pong isiniwalat sa inyo na hindi ko isiniwalat noong una...[para] huwag nang magdagdag pa na lalo pang ikasusugat ng mga nasaktan nating tao."
"Pero papaano naman yung damdamin namin? Papaano naman yung damdamin ng mga tao na tumulong? Yan po ang masakit sa akin," he added, trying to hold back tears.
"Just the same, thank you, Sir, for recognizing at last that very little effort that you think. But for me, all the efforts were given, all the efforts were done in order for you to be helped in spite of the things you've done not coordinating with us," Pangilinan said.
Upon questioning by Senator Nancy Binay , Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said she didn't tell President Aquino about the Mamasapano incident. "Hapon na ho nung naipaalam sa akin. By that time, alam ko alam na rin ng Presidente."
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, for her part, said she knew from the ceasefire panel as early as 7:28 a.m. but she also didn't inform the President because the information was still incomplete.
Ferrer also explained why she didn't inform Deles until 5 p.m. "Information was still emerging," she said. "Pero 5 o'clock nakita natin, that's when we started talking. She informed me the President was aware."
Napenas, meanwhile, told Binay said there was no director order from the President for him to coordinate with the ceasefire panel.
Roxas also told Binay why he couldn't answer last week who informed the President about the incident.
Binay admonished Roxas over this, causing some brief tension.
Roxas replied, "I have been and always will tell the truth."
"At the last hearing, I said I do not recall... so in answer to your question, the President texted back."
Binay asked for the response. Roxas said the President replied "Thank you."
Roxas said when he was asked by the President to look into the incident, he called Espina. Roxas gave an update to the President at 3 p.m..
"Alam namin.. clearly established, Espina and myself were cut out. Ano ang mare-report namin? 'Di namin alam nangyayari. Unang pagmumulat ng mata, napakalaki ng operasyon at napakalubha ng pangyayari," he said.
Brig. Gen. Rodante Joya, deputy director general for operations of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, also said there was a flight permit for the area of Mamasapano on January 25 from Zamboanga City.
The plane went to Cotabato and returned to Zamboanga. On january 26, there were also reports of a helicopter.
Joya confirmed that it had a flight permit as well, along with an airplane operated by the Philippine Air Force.