Aquino: Napeñas disobeyed my logical and legal orders on Mamasapano

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Former Special Action Force (SAF) head Director Getulio Napeñas

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) — After posting bail at the Sandiganbayan for charges of graft and usurpation of authority for the 2015 Mamasapano encounter, former President Benigno Aquino III gave a nearly two-hour media briefing about how he was misled by then PNP--Special Action Force director Getulio Napeñas.

Napeñas led Oplan Exodus, aimed at arresting international terrorist Zulkifi Binhir alias Marwan in Maguindanao.

The former president insists he greenlighted the operation after Napeñas assured he would follow orders. Aquino says his orders were to minimize the risks for government troops, and to coordinate with the military. He also knew at the time Marwan and his men presented a continuing, clear and present danger.

Aquino had a prepared presentation for the media, showing slides  and other information about Oplan Exodus. He said these were taken directly from Napeñas' laptop.

Aquino said when Napeñas made a presentation to him of several options to get Marwan, the former president expressed his concern about possible 'pintakasi' or when Muslim groups band together when faced by an 'overwhelming' enemy.

Aquino explains he thought of this because as presented by Napeñas, there were 3,600 members of different armed groups in Mamasapano, and Napeñas initially said 160 Seaborne SAF would conduct the operations. Aquino even said he repeatedly asked Napeñas about an exit plan for SAF, and Napeñas assured there are two exit points identified, where friendly forces are deployed.

Aquino stresses at the time, on the presumption of regularity, he thought Napeñas followed his orders, insisting there  was no reason for him to disobey his logical and legal orders. Aquino says he was assured there will be coordination with the military, that whatever deficiencies found in the initial planning were corrected.

The former president remembers one of the SAF survivors  asking him why he allowed the operation to continue even if he knew it was dangerous, and was like a suicide mission. Aquino says, he would not order the conduct of a suicide mission.

He stresses, "Inaalis ko ba sa kin ang sisi? Hindi, naloko ako eh. Di namin natunugan na may sumusuway sa uspan at sa utos - lawful order, sinuway hanggang too late na…Depensa ko lang talaga dun bakit ko dapat isipin na itong mga taong ito  haharapin ako, at harap-harapan bobolahain ako bilang pangulo ng republika?"

[Translation: Am I removing the blame from me? No, I was fooled. We didn't hear about those who were not following lawful orders until it was too late. My only defense is that I thought why would these people trick me as the President of the Republic?]

He also points out he was the one who promoted Napeñas, and that he trusted Napeñas since he  knew he was someone  who's brave enough to  go up against any enemy, describing him  as - "binubunggo niya lahat, walang sinasanto (he butts heads with everyone, he doesn't put anyone in a pedestal)."

Aquino even apologized to the media for harping on Mamasapano, but he says he wants to let out his 'sama ng loob.' He adds up to this day, he doesn't know why Napeñas didn't follow his orders, "I don't have the answer - reward, pride chicken, a feather on his cap," Aquino says.

As for former Philippine National Police Alan Purisima, Aquino stresses he was just a resource person for the Mamasapano operations and that he was not performing the role of the PNP chief. Aquino explains he consulted Purisima because he knew Oplan Exodus from the start. The Ombudsman filed charges of graft and usurpation of authority against Aquino for allowing Purisima to direct the Mamasapano operations even though Purisima was under preventive suspension at the time.