The joint House committee investigating the Mamasapano operation of the Special Action Force or SAF should focus on the sources of funding for “Oplan Exodus” as this will reveal the identities of those who were actually calling the shots for top-secret covert operation, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, a leading member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, pointed out that both the Senate Report and the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry Report or PNP-BOI on the Mamasapano incident failed to establish the money trail in the SAF operation in Mamasapano.
During the Senate hearing, relieved SAF Director Getulio Napenas revealed that the SAF comptroller released a measly P100,000 as budget for “Oplan Exodus”.
“It is not yet clear how much the total expenses were incurred by ‘Oplan Exodus’ and who provided the SAF units with the funds and logistics to carry out the January-25 law enforcement operation. It is now up to the House joint committee to focus on the money trail in the SAF operation,” said Gatchalian.
The solon shared the opinion stated in the PNP-BOI report that P100,000 budget as revealed by Napenas “is unrealistic considering the large number of personnel (a total of 392 SAF troopers) that were utilized and transported from different locations in Mindanao and Manila, days before the operation. In addition, expenses had to be incurred for billeting and lodging.”
Gatchalian specifically cited Page 72, 2nd Paragraph of the BOI Report: “Based on the requirements of Oplan Exodus and based on experiences with past operations, it is likely that the expenses for the operation were more than what was reported. However, the ability of the BOI to check the source of funds is limited due to time constraints.”
He would also like to know if President Benigno Aquino III ordered the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission or PAOCC to provide funding support to the SAF operation to arrest international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman who are considered as high-value targets.
The Valenzuela City congressman noted that there have been persistent media reports, wherein PAOCC funds were reported being also used to fund the SAF operation on January 25 in Mamasanapano, Maguindanao. PAOCC has an annual budget of P500 million.
“The question remains: How much was funding released by PAOCC to SAF for ‘Oplan Exodus’?” said Gatchalian.
He said this is not the first time that the PAOCC was dragged in a controversial police operation. Police officers involved in the 2013 “Atimonan massacre” in Quezon Province had also claimed that their operation against the slain suspected hired guns were cleared with and funded by PAOCC.
“Surprisingly, the issue of funding from the PAOCC in the Mamasapano operation has not cropped up in the Senate inquiry or any mention in the PNP-BOI Report despite earlier media reports showing the President ordered the release PAOCC funds to the SAF operation,” Gatchalian said.
It was also stated in media reports the Americans started “ Oplan Exodus” which sought to neutralize Marwan and Usman.
Under “ Oplan Exodus”, the Americans tapped the SAF’s 84th Seaborne Company based in Calarian and trained its members at La Vista del Mar Resort. The 84th Seaborne unit was led by its newly appointed commanding officer, Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi , who was among those killed in Mamasapano.
Gatchalian said this was confirmed by the BOI in Page 65 of its report under the subtitle: Troop Preparation and Movement to Staging Areas – “For several days before the launch of ‘Oplan Exodus’, 84th SAC and the 55th SAC initiated a series of field exercises, rehearsals, and replanning sessions in a remote location in Zamboanga City to prepare for the impending operation.”
Said in the BOI Report: “During rehearsals, the complete equipment package for the 84th SAC and 55th SAC that may cause delay in their movement were not properly rehearsed. Each operating element was given equipment load that were more than they could effectively carry.” (Page 64, 2nd Paragraph under Change in Operational Conditions.)
“One of the questions that should be raised in the House hearing on April 7 and 8 is: Did the US provided funding and logistics to the 84th Seaborne Company and the 55th SAC which American advisers directly trained prior to the Mamasapano Operation. If yes, how much funding was given by the US to the SAF and what type of logistics were provided for those involved in Oplan Exodus,” said Gatchalian.
The question of “money trail” was never discussed in the Senate Report while the PNP-BOI cited time constraints and limitations as reason for not being able to dissect the funding for Oplan Exodus and who authorized the release of the funds.
“The joint House committee on the Mamasapano incident will now have the opportunity to ask these questions concerning the money trail,” concluded Gatchalian.
Gatchalian has been pushing for the creation of the “Mamasapano Truth Commission” under House Bill No. 5404 as this will ensure an independent and objective investigation of the Jan. 25 SAF operation.
Under Gatchalian’s proposed measure, even President Aquino will be summoned to testify to explain what he knew about the operation, including the sources of funding and logistics for the top-secret covert operation to neutralize two international terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. (R. Burgos)