01 Feb What really happened? A compilation of puzzle pieces on #Fallen44
JUAN SAYS: Many things have been said and reported. Many things have been expected of our leaders both in government and the armed forces, but the things that we want to know are still in limbo. Blame it on our President, blame it on SAF, blame it on the MILF if you please, but the fact remains that we still DO NOT SEE the whole picture, or even a part of it. We would like to make sense of the deaths of the #Fallen44, was it worth it? Moreover, in the midst of our grief and uncertainty, we ask ourselves this very question: bakit walang reinforcement? #NasaanAngPangulo And really, bakit parang amateur lang, when operations like these are highly tactical.
We at juan.com.ph are no tactical people but we understand that any attack has to have a solid exit plan. SOLID. Plan A, plan B, plan C. if you must. But even in our non-tactical minds the question lingers, ano ba talaga ang nangyari?
We have decided to piece together the puzzle picked up from different news organizations reporting on the carnage to paint a picture of what really happened on that uneventful day.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 3 A.M, MAGUINDANAO
The 392 police commandos were divided into groups. The plan, according to sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napenas, was for a surgical operation of only 30 minutes. Four nipa huts in the village were the targets of the assault.
At 4:20 a.m., part of the assault force was able to enter the nipa hut where Marwan was sleeping, Napeñas said.
Marwan woke up, at around 4:30 a.m., and he managed to be the first to shoot. Some of the SAF commandos in this group were hit, but they were able to return fire which killed Marwan. (READ: SAF Chief: I am responsible)
“Mike 1, Bingo!” was heard over the radio of the elite Special Action Force during their “special operation” as they confirmed the death of target Marwan. This was recalled by SAF OIC Chief Supt. Noli Talino, as amongst his last radio conversation with SAF operatives led by Senior Inspector Ryan Pabalinas. The code was a confirmation of the killing of Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. Talino and were closely monitoring the situation of the 55th SAF Company and the 84th SAF Company Seaborne.
“Everyone at the TCT was so tense, until such time that we received a text message from the operating troops stating ‘Mike 1, Bingo,’” recalled Talino. This was a brief moment of joy knowing that the mission was accomplished. Talino heard Napenas saying ‘para sa inyo ito.’ ‘Inyo,’ referring to the Filipino people and the country in general.
According to Talino, elements of 84th SAF Company Seaborne “snaked it” to Marwan’s lair in Barangay Pidsandawan, Mamasapano unnoticed early morning Sunday. (READ: SAF OIC eulogy recalls last report from troops)
There were reports stating that Marwan was with two companions when he shot it out with the SAF troops, resulting in his death. Reports from Inquirer corroborated the story that the commandos who killed Marwan cut off a finger for DNA verification (READ: Marwan finger cut off for DNA)
The problem started, according to Talino, when the troops were caught by day break and armed men massed up and surrounded the position of 55th SAF Company, which was tasked to secure the perimeter.
JUAN SAYS: “The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch’ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War)
“During the extraction of troops from the area of operation, they were caught by the break of dawn and they have noticed that enemies from a distance were gathering and establishing positions,” said Talino.
He added the 55th SAF Company started radioing for reinforcements around 7 a.m. but help came only around 1 p.m.
Meanwhile in Zamboanga
According to the source from the PNP who bared everything to the Tribune (READ: Noy held back on order to reinforce SAF), President Aquino was in Zamboanga at that time, waiting in the wings for the outcome of the operation, ready to jump anytime to Maguindanao should the two suspected terrorists be captured.
Not only was Aquino informed beforehand of the SAF operation against “Marwan,” believed to be a key leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islam-iyah, and his alleged Filipino henchman, Abdul Basit Usman, but that he was actually on top of the operation itself.
“The President was actually monitoring the operation. Everything was being reported to him in real time,” said the source.
“But when the operation went out of control as the MILF and the BIFF Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) joined forces in attacking the SAF, the President refused to send any reinforcement even as the SAF were already crying for help from heir beleaguered position,” the source said.
President Aquino deliberately ignored the pleas from the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) for additional reinforcement to rescue trapped operatives from their dire position.
JUAN SAYS: “Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
MAGUINDANAO, around 7 AM
“I, together with General Napenas and other staff, was there at the TCT and we were helping each other out thinking on how we could extract the troops who were already engaging the enemies,” said Talino. (READ: SAF OIC eulogy recalls last report from troops)
“I remembered the voice from the radioman of the 55th SAF, the main effort two, that was pinned down early in the morning and then kept on asking where the support elements are, they have noticed the swelling of armed men around them and now asking for reinforcements as early as 7 in the morning,” he recalled.
In an interview over DZMM, Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan (READ: Mamasapano mayor says clash area is MILF community)
Ampatuan said he only learned about the SAF operation on Sunday morning, when policemen from the provincial office and soldiers came to his house.
“Tinanaong po nila ako kung ano ang pwede nating maitulong, kaya tumawag po tayo agad-agad sa lokal na mga opisyal po.”
“Tinanong po natin kung anong status po sa loob, at saka tinanong po natin ‘yong kapitan na andoon po sa loob mismo. Sabi po, ang hirap na po nito hintuin dahil napakalakas na po ng putukan sa loob.”
JUAN SAYS: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. “ – Collin Powell 18 Points to Leadership
Inside Ground Zero
When the firing became intense, one SAF officer extracted DNA from Marwan, Napeñas said. Then the assault team decided it was best to bring Marwan’s body and shoot its way out of there, he said. (READ: SAF CHIEF: I am responsible)
The team got out, said Napeñas, who described the other side as BIFF and MILF forces who “came from all directions.”
At past 6 a.m., the joint monitoring team from the MILF and the government called a ceasefire, Napeñas said, but the “MILF did not stop shooting.”
MILF ignored ceasefire call
The MILF refused to heed the monitoring team’s call for a ceasefire, he said.
The firefight continued and the containment or blocking force was pinned down in an open field, he said.
JUAN SAYS: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, Art of War
The MILF’s Version
Murad said in a press conference on Wednesday that around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, MILF fighters from Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, heard bursts of gunfire from a nearby village that was at edge of the Liguasan marshland. (READ: What really happened according to MILF, AFP, etc.)
“They thought it was accidental. They didn’t know there was fighting,” Murad said.
Around 6:30 a.m., shortly after their morning prayers at the mosque, the MILF fighters in Tukanalipao “noticed armed uniformed men approaching.”
Murad said it was the policemen from Special Action Force (SAF) who fired the first shot at members of the MILF 105th Base Command, igniting the firefight.
The MILF fighters thought they were engaging the Army but some noticed that their enemies wore a different uniform.
The battle area was a vast cornfield where the SAF commandos, reportedly unfamiliar with the terrain, ended up as sitting ducks for some 100 MILF fighters.
Murad said the MILF’s reinforcements started to arrive around 9 a.m.
JUAN SAYS: “Know the weather, know the terrain, and your victories will be limitless. “ – Sun Tzu, Art of War
What Army Reinforcements?
“General Napeñas said the ceasefire was called for by the monitoring teams of both sides at a little past 6 am, less than two hours after the first shot was fired around 4:20 am. But the gun battle lasted 11 hours until 3:00 pm, and the nearest Army station is only about one kilometer away from where the gun battle was happening, but no reinforcement was sent,” said the source. (READ: Noy held back on order to reinforce SAF)
“The support elements could not get in because the 55th SAF was practically surrounded. We did send reinforcements from different approaches but we could not penetrate the bulk of the enemies until about 1 p.m.,” he said. (READ: SAF OIC Eulogy recalls last report from troops)
By the time, troops of the 55th SAF Company were already wiped out.
“When that voice, was nowhere to be heard, there was radio silence, very long silence. After the battle, I realized that that voice will never be heard again, and I know that voice belonged to Ryan, Senior Inspector Ryan Pabalinas,” said Talino.
“I felt guilty, and I am sure we have the same feeling with General Napenas about what happened that it seems our efforts were not enough to extend the help that they have asked. But we did our best,” he added.
JUAN SAYS: “He who advances without seeking fame,
Who retreats without escaping blame,
He whose one aim is to protect his people and serve his lord,
The man is a jewel of the Realm”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Police Director Getulio Napeñas was sure of one thing: His men were still alive around noon last Sunday. (READ: SAF chief: My men still alive at noon but no reinforcements came)
That was about six hours after the second group of Special Action Force (SAF) commandos got into a gun battle with Moro rebels.
The first group, for which the second force was providing cover, had shot its way out of Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, where it killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
“They were alive, sir, they were alive. Many of them were wounded and they had run out of ammunition,” Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander, quoted PO2 Christopher Lalan as telling him after the clash.
Lalan was a member of the second SAF group who survived the gun battle with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas in Mamasapano. He was the lone survivor.
Napeñas told this reporter (Arlyn dela Cruz of Inquirer) in an interview on Thursday that the bodies of many of the 44 commandos who were killed in the Mamasapano operation showed that they had been given first aid.
“Their wounds were bandaged, or properly stitched. They had a fighting chance. They held on,” Napeñas said.
All the 392 SAF commandos deployed to Mamasapano to get Marwan and local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman had undergone tactical combat casualty care, he said.
“They carried individual life savers (ILS). I made sure all of them had ILS,” he added, referring to the emergency kits.
The fire fight went on until the commandos ran out of ammunition. It was almost noon.
Napeñas said the last contact with the troops, who were pinned down in a cornfield, was before 1 p.m. Help never arrived.
Again, What Reinforcements?
The call for reinforcements went out at 6 a.m. That was when, according to Napeñas, coordination was done not just with the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but also with the government peace panel and the leadership of the MILF.
The nearest Philippine Army units that could respond were the Mechanized Brigade in Shariff Aguak town, the 45th Infantry Battalion in Mamasapano and the 601st Infantry Brigade in Awang town.
“The most difficult thing was I knew my men were still alive and no reinforcements were coming other than our own forces,” Napeñas said.
“It was difficult because I decided not to coordinate prior to our actual jump-off. I knew the Philippine Army in the area was ready to reinforce us at once. But they were also waiting for orders, and I understand that. I do not blame anyone, that’s why I said I was responsible,” he said.
JUAN SAYS: “There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Fighting in the afternoon
Mamasapano Mayor Benzar Ampatuan confirmed to this reporter that IVs (intravenous), bandage and other medical items were found in one area in Tukanalipao where the bodies of the slain commandos were recovered.
The area was about 4 to 5 kilometers away from the Pidsandawan village, where Marwan was cornered and killed by the SAF assault team.
“We don’t know until what time they lived. We have no way to find out. What we know is that there was still fighting at 3 p.m., when negotiations were going on for the entry of the International Monitoring Team and the local government,” Ampatuan said.
“But the fighting was far from the area where we were to retrieve the bodies. We got there about 5:30 p.m.,” he added.
JUAN SAYS: “But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Why was there no reinforcements?
JUAN SAYS: “We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“If the President could make a call so early in the morning to Deles so she could in turn call on the monitoring teams to call for a ceasefire, why can’t he make a call to ask the Armed Forces to send reinforcement for the beleaguered SAF personnel?” the source asked. (READ: Noy held back on order to reinforce SAF)
“Because he was advised by Deles not to do so. They were so obsessed with the peace agreement, they want to save the Bangsamoro Basic Law as they believe it was the last piece for Aquino to earn the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the source.
“Never mind if 50 dedicated cops were killed,” he lamented.
JUAN SAYS: we only have one word of advice for the President, “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.