PNP: US aid in Mamasapano mission limited to medical evacuation
MANILA, Philippines – What’s wrong with receiving help from the United States?
An official of the Philippine National Police sees nothing wrong with the US government’s assistance in extricating the dead and the wounded from Mamasapano, Maguindanao, following the January 25 operation of the Special Action Force.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., the PNP spokesperson, said they have received other forms of help from their foreign counterparts and that they welcome it.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, the official said the involvement of US forces was limited only to the medical evacuation, rescue and retrieval of both wounded and dead SAF commandos.
“If ever there was any involvement of the US government (in the operation), there is nothing wrong with them helping us. The US has been our partners in policy and law enforcement, as well as other aspects. I don’t see any reason to hide it,” said Cerbo.
He maintained that as far as the PNP was concerned, the US was not directly involved in the implementation of the operation, which left 44 SAF commandos dead and 14 others injured.
Cerbo was reacting to reports that eight Americans were seen monitoring the SAF operation, code-named “Oplan Exodus,” from the command post as the commandos tried to arrest Malaysian bomber Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman.
On Tuesday, the PNP spokesperson reiterated the PNP’s position that it was the SAF, which solely carried out the operation in Mamasapano, and that there was no direct US involvement save for medical evacuation, retrieval and rescue.
“We won’t deny that. The PNP receives help from the US and other countries as well, in terms of equipment, capability enhancement and training, as well as information sharing. But as to actual involvement, there is none in Mamasapano,” Cerbo said.
He added: “This alleged US involvement, that will come out if it is true. That’s something you cannot hide, because of statements and physical evidence on the ground.”
The police official cited the country’s similar arrangement with other countries, like member-states of the Association of South East Asian Nations with which the Philippines has been sharing bilateral and trilateral agreements.
Cerbo also pointed out that relieved SAF commander Getulio Napenas did not mention the involvement of any foreign troops in the operation.
“You also heard it, from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the 6th Infantry Division and other groups. It wasn’t established that there was any (foreign) involvement,” he said.
He assured the public that the issue of alleged US involvement would be tackled as well in the ongoing investigation by the Board of Inquiry, noting that the Senate and the House of Representatives have been pursuing their own probes as well.
While Cerbo said he was not assuming that Napenas’ statements were correct, his statements would still be subjected to probes by fact-finding bodies.
He also denied reports that the US troops were first to arrive on the scene and retrieve the bodies of the slain SAF commandos, saying the recovery was initiated by the SAF and the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
He appealed to the public to wait for the BOI’s final investigation report, adding that the PNP will not cover up the truth about the Mamasapano debacle.