'Some Army commanders were wined and dined by PNP intel officers'
MANILA - At least 120 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos refused to help their own comrades during the clash with armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Friday.
Trillanes said this information was not included in the draft Senate committee report on the Mamasapano incident, which has been signed by 20 senators.
The report earlier said President Aquino is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission but noted it was the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups that killed the 44 SAF troopers.
Trillanes said the Senate report lacked information that were revealed during the executive sessions that could shed light on who should really be held accountable for Oplan: Exodus.
He said the executive sessions revealed there were about 120 SAF commandos ready to support the 55th SAF engaged in a firefight in Barangay Tukanalipao. However, the 120 SAF men refused to do anything to save their comrades because they were unfamiliar with the terrain.
"They were just lying there. Nag-re-relax...When they were asked to engage even by the Army reinforcements, they didn't want to move. They didn't want to enter the territory because they said we don't know the terrain and masyadong malakas ang putukan," Trillanes said.
"Wala silang sense of urgency. Andun lang sa sagingan yung ibang SAF troopers, sa kalye, by the road. Nung nagkakaputukan, they were about 800-900 meters away. They had all the opportunity to get close and help their comrades...'Hindi kami papasok diyan. Maraming putukan.'"
Trillanes said the 120 SAF troopers were supposed to be part of the blocking force for the 84th Seaborne and 55th SAC at different way points for the extraction of troops. He said the 120 were reporting to then SAF commander Getulio Napenas Jr. who was at the command post.
The senator said Army resource persons denied claims by the 120 SAF troopers that they were under heavy volume of fire "because they were so far away from the action."
He also said the 120 SAF men had enough numbers to beat the enemy hostiles during the early hours of the January 25 clash since the other combatants had yet to reach the area.
"This was around 10 a.m. The volume of fire was not directed at them at all. One of the Army resource persons said the volume of fire was not heavy, hearing it from their position," he said.
The senator said the military is being unjustly blamed for not sending reinforcements fast enough to help the SAF troopers.
However, he said the grid coordinates sent by relieved SAF chief Getulio Napenas Jr. to the Army when he asked for reinforcements were inaccurate.
"All the grid coordinates didn't match any of the engagement area.
They were using Google maps, which is not the standard military tactical map," he said.
He also said military ground commanders were deliberately kept in the dark about the operation.
"Some of the commanders of the Army were wined and dined by some PNP intel officers the night before just to make sure that they won't operate," he said.
Trillanes said the details of the Mamasapano incident were not revealed during the televised hearing because the Army did not want to hurt the SAF team who was still mourning the deaths of their comrades.
"Those who were lying around while their comrades were being massacred, I don't think...they should not be glorified," he said.
He said he personally got permission to reveal details of the executive sessions from the Army resource persons involved because he could not secure the majority's consent.
For Trillanes, the public needs to know the truth.
"They wanted to conform the [Senate] committee report with the public opinion and the media angle that's prevailing right now. They didn't want to touch the SAF because we have glorified the SAF as a unit up to this point," he said.
He also urged PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina to investigate the matter.
RESPONSIBLE, BUT NOT ACCOUNTABLE
Trillanes said there should be no debate that President Aquino has command responsibility for the mission. He said Aquino has already accepted responsibility for the debacle.
However, he said responsibility is different from accountability and the person accountable for the mission was the overall commander - General Napenas.
He said Napenas should accept full responsibility and liability for the bloody encounter which came out from a flawed and poorly executed plan and a "total breakdown of leadership and discipline."
"Hindi lang si Presidente binola niya, pati mga senador and the public. He's taking everybody for a ride because he can't accept that responsibility. Namatay yung mga tropa mo kasi mali yung plano mo, execution mo," he said.
He also disagreed with calls for President Aquino to apologize for the outcome of the Mamasapano operation.
"The nature of an apology should be given voluntarily, kusa, yung bukang loob. If it's extracted from you, if it's forced then it has no value at all," he said.