Friday, January 30, 2015

Lay of the land added to PNP-SAF's woes in Mamasapano clash

From the Website of GMA NEWS

Lay of the land added to PNP-SAF's woes in Mamasapano clash

While the lack of coordination is being blamed for the "misencounter" that resulted in the deaths of more than 40 AFP: Marine deployment in Maguindanao not related to Mamasapano clashpolicemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Sunday, several military commanders interviewed by GMA News said the unpredictable terrain at the encounter site also contributed to the higher number of casualties.
In a report aired on GMA News' “24 Oras”, several military field commanders in Mamasapano who refused to be identified said Barangay Tukanalipao and the nearby villages of Timbalakan and Tinsawaan, where the firefight occurred on Sunday were considered as “hard terrain” involving hectares of marshlands, cornfields, banana fields and rocky areas.
The military commanders said it was also difficult to send reinforcement troops and vehicles to the area once the firefight began as these villages were known bailiwicks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
On Sunday, 392 policemen belonging to the elite Special Action Force (SAF) had an 11-hour encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano town.
The encounter led to the death of 44 SAF members, seven of them were high-ranking officers. Meanwhile, 12 more SAF men were reported injured.

Capt. Jo-Anne Petinglay, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division (ID) said the hard terrain of the encounter site served as an advantage for the side of the enemies who knew the area better.
“Just like in any operations, you always have the advantage if you know the terrain better,” Petinglay said.
Petinglay added that the MILF and BIFF occupying the area usually belong to the same clan.
“Halos ganun naman dito, lahat ng nasa communities magkakamag-anak din,” Petinglay said.
According to the military, Mamasapano town is considered an MILF community where the camp of the 105th Base of the MILF Command is situated. The 105th Base of the MILF Command reportedly have about 1,000 members.
In a phone patch interview with GMA News TV's “Quick Response Team (QRT)” on Monday, Roxas said he has already ordered the creation of a board of inquiry which will look into the possible lapses on the part of the police officials who planned and led the operation, including the reported lack of coordination with the MILF.
Roxas said the board will also look into the intelligence gathering procedure of the PNP following reports that the SAF troops were not informed that the area was a bailiwick of the MILF and BIFF.
“Yung mga asset na nagsupply ng info sa SAF titignan din...Kaya nga magkakaroon ng board of inquiry para makita kung meron bang lapses. Itong lapses na ito ay para bang negligence, kapabayaan, weather-related or mga hindi inaasahang mga pangyayari,” Roxas said.
Roxas has earlier called the incident a “misencounter” as the MILF and the BIFF were not the intended targets of the police force but Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Commander Marwan and foreign-trained Filipino bomb maker Abdul Bassit Usman who is believed to be a high-ranking leader of the Abu Sayyaf group.
Meanwhile, the “24 Oras” report said 30 more SAF members would have been killed in the encounter had the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) did not step in and conducted a negotiation with the MILF and SAF for a cease fire.
“Ang hirap kasi we were negotiating under fire...tago talaga kami sa sagingan, doon nagkaroon ng negotiation,” CCCH chairman Brigadier General Carlito Galvez recounted.
Galvez said it was fortunate that the ceasefire negotiation yielded positive result as the 30 SAF men were already surrounded by the MILF and BIFF.
"We are successful na natigil ang putukan ng 4 p.m. (on Sunday) and we were able to negotiate for the wthdrawal and extrication of the 30 surviving PNP forces,” Galvez said.
Based on the official report of the MILF Ceasefire Committee the PNP-SAF did not coordinate with them before conducting the operation.
“When they (MILF troops) bumped unexpectedly into a team of PNP SAF in Tukanalipao, immediately gun battle erupted between them. The troops of PNP SAF were actually manuevering as back up forces to their assaulting troops in Timbalakan and Tinsawaan,” MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.
“There was never an ambush. In fact, it was the PNP SAF who fired first at the forces of the MILF command,” Iqbal added. Elizabeth Marcelo/NB, GMA News




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