Thursday, March 19, 2015

Focus on reports' other findings like dud grenades, defective radio, deceptive MILF ceasefire

MANILA-There are many “non-controversial, unchallenged” recommendations in both the Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the Senate reports on the Mamasapano fiasco which government can act on immediately, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

“There are many prescriptions which can be acted upon motu propio. Reports are meant to be acted upon, not archived.  

He cited the BOI recommendation to grant the Fallen 44 posthumous promotion and one-rank promotion to the surviving members of the 84th Seaborne and Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan, “the lone survivor” of the 55th Special Action Force Company.

“I think there is universal agreement on this, so the ball on their promotion should have started rolling a long time ago,” Recto said.

The 38-man 84th Searborne was the “main effort” which killed Malaysian bombmaker Zhulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan in early dawn of Jan. 25 in Barangay Tukanalipao but encountered Moro rebels on their way back.

It suffered 9 dead and 14 wounded.    

The 36-man 55th SAC was the main support unit but on their way to rendezvous with the withdrawing 84th, it got encircled by Moro rebels which it fought in a 10-hour gunbattle, from a flat cornfield which offered no protection.   
Lalan is the lone survivor of this group.

Recto said the BOI findings on dud ammunition and faulty radio devices must merit an official probe on the Philippine National Police (PNP) procurement process and status of equipment.

Page 89 of the BOI report noted that “several rounds of ammunition of M203 grenade launchers were defective” and “some radios of the SAF Commandos were unreliable (and) were not designed for military-type tactical operations.”

Other logistical deficiencies bared by the Mamasapano operations “is our lack of air assets, to provide fire support and medical evacuation.”

“Pati air ambulance, mga Amerikano pa nagbigay. I think after buying Polish helicopters, South Korean fighter jets, and these two Airbus transport plane from France, ayusin natin ang ating helicopter fleet which is needed during disaster rescue.”

Recto said the PNP should also revisit its policies on funding large-scale mission operations as the BOI noted that Oplan Exodus, the plan to arrest Marwan and two other terrorists, reportedly had a measly P100,000 budget.

Recto also endorsed the BOI recommendation that several manuals and protocols be reviewed and strengthened as their weaknesses were exposed by the Mamasapano tragedy.

Among these is the Joint AFP-PNP Operational Guidelines for Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, particularly sections dealing with law enforcement operations.

Recto said one finding in the BOI report which should merit further investigation or clarification is how the PNP and AFP were lulled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into believing that it had already imposed a ceasefire.

“The embattled SAF Commandos even observed a ceasefire after they’ve been ordered to.  If you read the report, there were several text messages relaying to our troops the order and the assurance of the MILF leadership that it has called for a ceasefire,” Recto said.

“Dahil dito, hindi bumuhos ng todo or nadelay ang reinforcement ng Army kasi meron na ngang  pasabi ang MILF na ceasefire na sila. Eh drawing lang naman pala. D’yan tayo nabola. Ang nangyari, it was the government side which obeyed the ceasefire. It became a unilateral ceasefire – by us,” Recto said.

Recto noted that several recommendations of the BOI report are being acted upon by the concerned agencies.

He cited the case of the rifle handed over by a surviving Seaborne member to Army soldiers but ended up as among those surrendered by the MILF. The claim has been ordered investigated by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang.

The BOI said the Ferfrans special operations assault rifle of PO2 Rommel Magno was handed to one of the members of the Army’s Division Reconnaissance Company but was among the firearms returned by the MILF.

Recto said he was also told that the PNP has officially begun determining who among the dead, wounded, or surviving commandos deserve the PNP’s highest award, the Medalya ng Kagitingan.

“Marami doon sa BOI and Senate report na hindi na dapat pagdebatihan at pwede ng aksyunan,” Recto said.

Recto said the “reports’ findings on the President’s role in the operations is but one of many.”

“There is too much hair-splitting on what the President should have or could have done, or should be doing, but if you read the two reports, there are far more important actionable recommendations there which are undisputed,” Recto said. 

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