Here I am in Jakarta, away from the battle site of Mamasapano in Southern Philippines, where 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were killed in the morning of 25 January.
Yet I’ve a source who told me yesterday that he was persuading a friend to share with us a video clip taken by a person on the side of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The clip, he said, showed some of the slain on the SAF side were unmistakably Caucasian.
I didn’t think much of this until hours ago when I read a banner story of the Manila Times written by its chairman emeritus Dr. Dante Ang. The burden of the piece is that in the Mamasapano raid, codenamed Operation Wolverine, the main protagonists were American agents out to get the Malaysian terrorist Marwan and the BIFF leader Abdulbasit Usman. The PNP-SAF commandos were only security escorts to the agents.
According to Ang’s unnamed informant, the Americans and their PNP-SAF escorts were allowed into Mamasapano on a deal with the MILF involving the peso equivalent of the combined bounties for the heads of Marwan and Usman, $6 million. The US agents made a downpayment of P60 million (about $1.3 million) but before the mission could be completed, the MILF demanded the balance of the bounties.
The agents couldn’t produce the money. There was an altercation, followed by a gunfight, then a rout. All the while, according to the informant, President Aquino and suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima were monitoring the battle at the US Drone Center in Zamboanga. Somebody in the field, presumably a military officer, radioed for permission to enter the fray and reinforce the embattled policemen.
Aquino himself allegedly responded, “Negative, negative. Stand down.” He was afraid if the army came to the rescue in force, the peace process between the government and the MILF would unravel. And so the SAF cops weren’t reinforced and they lost 44 men.
That’s one of the more interesting stories going around on the Mamasapano carnage. On its basis, many Filipinos are calling for Aquino’s resignation.
Purisima has an alibi. When he was allegedly at the US Drone Center he was actually elsewhere fulfilling a speaking engagement. But asked on the presence of American agents, he was reportedly evasive, saying only that those were matters of high security.
The SAF commander on the ground at one time claimed that his men were never reinforced by the military. The army, he said, had balked in view of the ceasefire between the government and the MILF.
Not so, says the official report of the military. Reinforcements were sent in immediately on request, even if the request came late, when the SAF was already getting battered. The military report also directly contradicts the Manila Times story.
Then finally, late last week, President Aquino assumed command responsibility for the Mamasapano carnage. “As President and Commander-in-Chief,” he said, “I bear responsibility for whatever victory, suffering or tragedy we may get in our desire to achieve long-term security and peace.”
Scoff Aquino’s critics: he owns the botched operation now because there’s a “victory” to take credit for. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced that DNA analysis of the finger taken from a man the SAF killed in Mamasapano proved that he was indeed the once slippery Marwan. His death trumps the loss of SAF44?
Meanwhile, conflicting stories fly about. Which is the truth?
Well, in a few weeks some 80 million Catholic Filipinos will be observing Holy Week and once more they’ll recall the story of Jesus in conversation with Pilate. When Jesus said that he came to attest to the truth, Pilate sneered: “What is truth?”