Archive for the ‘War on Terror’ Category

After talking with the AFP generals in Zamboanga about Mamasapano, Aquino proceeded with his original schedule of visiting the Zamboanga blast site.

In an interview today on DZMM, AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang who was with the President in the morning of January 25 said that he did not inform the President of the ongoing Mamasapano encounter as he did not think it was yet that important compared to Aquino’s original agenda in Zamboanga. Aquino was already in Zamboanga at 8am while the firefight between the PNP SAF and various armed groups was ongoing.

It was only at 2:00 pm says Catapang that the President asked him what was going on in Mamasapano. By this time, the entire 55th SAF was already overrun by armed groups, having sent their last radio transmission.

News reports say that it was around this time that Aquino met with the military officials who were with him in Zamboanga. The meeting caused a delay in the President’s itinerary. Aquino would emerge from the meeting with the AFP officials and proceed to the Zamboanga blast site at 3:30pm and a hospital visit.

Catapang tells DZMM that he was not the one who informed the President and that Aquino was the one asking the questions in the afternoon of January 25. Strangely, it was only then that Catapang started updating Aquino of developments in Mamasapano up to 11:30pm that day, when the President had already returned to Manila.

At today’s Senate hearing, Catapang, DILG secretary Roxas and DND secretary Gazmin all said that they were not the ones who informed the President of the unfolding crisis in Mamasapano.

If not Catapang, Roxas and Gazmin, who then was updating the President? When did the President know of the Mamasapano crisis and what did he do upon finding out? Only the president can answer this question.

It certainly appears that someone else, very likely the suspended Alan Purisima, was updating the President. If the President was indeed informed earlier of the incident, what did he do? Why did it take him between 1pm and 2pm to meet his military officials in Zamboanga, at which time the entire SAF blocking force was already decimated. And why did the President simply went on with his original itinerary as the crisis was unfolding?

Was Purisima giving Aquino assurances that the crisis was being handled? If so, why was Aquino taking advice from a suspended official? Was Aquino simply clueless as to the gravity of the situation in relation to the lives of his own men and in relation to the peace process? The guidance he reportedly gave AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. GenRustico Guerrero .was to exert “best effort” in the rescue of the SAF.

The situation in Zamboanga also raises questions about the role of Purisima. If indeed he was the one informing the president and even AFP’s Catapang, it only shows that the operation was being run by the suspended PNP official.

When Purisima was asked by the Senate on whether or not he informed the President at any time about the debacle in Mamasapano, he avoided the question and instead requested for clearance from the President.

That answer alone tells us a lot about what was going on and who the President was listening to all the time.

The Aquino-Purisima clique is at the center of the Mamasapano incident. The two share responsibility for the bloody incident. The two cannot invoke executive privilege to cover up their involvement. ###



philippines-us-special-forces-training-afpDespite the stonewalling of the AFP and PNP officials every time the issue of US involvement in Mamasapano was raised at the Senate hearing, we now have more information to show that the US was indeed a part of the operation to get Marwan.

The involvement of the US is important since they were providing training and funding, dangling a $7 million reward, and most likely, dictating the terms for the operations. That a foreign government can set the terms for a domestic operation that involves sacrificing the lives of Filipinos is definitely a problematic situation. Mamasapano also demolishes the long-propagated myth that US forces are not involved in combat operations in the Philippines.

Based on the Senate hearings and recent news reports, here are 5 indicators of US involvement in Mamasapano.

  1. Napenas admits that the tissue sample of Marwan was immediately brought by the SAF to FBI agents waiting in General Santos City. This indicates that the US had prior knowledge of the operation and were already present in Mindanao to receive the tissue sample for DNA testing. The SAF did not even bother to inform the PNP Headquarters or any other agency, and instead went straight to the FBI. Why was the FBI already in General Santos City? Napenas testimony before the Senate may shed light on this. In his statement, he says that on the eve of the operation, “the three Police Commissioned Officers moved to General Santos City for the final mission planning and coordination together with all the unit commanders and key personnel involved in the operation.” The final mission planning in General Santos could explain the presence of the FBI in that city.
  2. One news article quotes a SAF trooper who joined the assault on Marwan saying that a drone was overhead at the time of the Mamasapano operation. He reportedly takes a video of the drone.
  3. During the Senate hearing, the Mayor of Mamasapano said he saw a white object hovering above during the operations. He believes this was a drone.
  4. SAF Director Leo Napenas testified that he was able to directly ask help from US forces based in Zamboanga indicating that there was already prior coordination between the SAF and US forces in that province. This level of coordination is important after another article pointed out that the SAF and US forces were training in a secret facility in a resort in Zamboanga and that the US was funding the operations to get Marwan.
  5. Every time US involvement is being asked, the PNP and AFP would invoke national security and ask for an executive session. It is the clearest sign that something is going on that they don’t want people to know.

More information from this article.

Does the end justify the means? Is US involvement made acceptable because the SAF got Marwan? The question is no different from the one asking if the death of Marwan was worth the lives of the 44 SAF. These questions can best be answered by examining the bigger context of US involvement and the Aquino government’s subservience.

The US is carrying out its war on terror without regard for the lives of Filipinos, whether combatants of civilians. It carries out its war on terror without regard for the national sovereignty of the countries were the alleged terrorists are supposedly hiding. In other countries, the US employs drones to target so-called terrorists, often ending up killing civilians. Here they send Filipino foot soldiers right into a death trap.

It is important for the US and the Philippine governments to emphasize Marwan’s record of terror so that even the violation of national sovereignty and the loss of lives of 44 SAF troopers as well as 5 civilians who ended up collateral damage, would somehow be acceptable.

In one news article, a police source explained that “because of the Americans’ obsession to get Marwan, many SAF men died.” He pointed out that the Americans were more interested in getting the location of the SAF team that had Marwan’s finger than in helping the SAF blocking force trapped in the corn field. All but one of the 36 member blocking force died. The SAF assault team proved to be more important for the US because of what they had, the source laments. ###




We have heard enough from the Senate hearings to be convinced that suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima was indeed running the Mamasapano operations against Marwan, despite his suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman. No amount of palusot can save Purisima. His distinction between an “order” and an “advice” is one for the books. No one believes any of that.


Based on the testimonies, here are the strongest indicators that Purisima was running the show.


  1. Former PNP SAF Director Leo Napenas called Purisima the “focal person” constantly consulted by the President on the operation. By definition, being a focal person means you’re at the center of things.


  1. Purisima brought Napenas and other SAF officials to the President’s official residence in Bahay Pangarap on January 9, 2015 so that the SAF director can give “mission updates” to the President. Napenas made it very clear that it was Purisima who brought them to the President. The meeting took place just two weeks before the actual Mamasapano operations.


  1. Purisima was texting Napenas on January 19, 5 days before the actual operation, asking for the final details of the plan to get Marwan


  1. Napenas keeps reporting to Purisima. He follows Purisima’s orders-slash-advice on operational matters, including the “advice” not to inform the PNP OIC Espina and Interior secretary Mar Roxas until the SAF reaches the target. Purisima would justify this as part of “operational security”, an explanation that no one is buying. Napenas also continued to meet with Purisima at the White House in Camp Crame despite Purisima’s suspension.


  1. Purisima met with top AFP officials including Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang and officials of the Western Mindanao Command in December 2014 at Camp Aguinaldo to discuss the use of precision bombs to get Marwan. Purisima was already suspended at the time of the meeting.


  1. During the January 9 meeting in Bahay Pangarap, Purisima told Napenas that the former would be in charge of informing the AFP Chief of Staff once the SAF troopers are in the area. “Ako na ang bahala kay Catapang,” was what Napenas told the Senate. How can a suspended PNP Chief be coordinating with the AFP COS?


Of course, the Senate failed to ask the most obvious question. How can a suspended official run an operation while keeping the PNP OIC in the dark? Where was Purisima getting his authority?


During his first televised speech on Mamasapano, Aquino told the nation that he was merely consulting with Purisma on the operations jargon by the time he was suspended. He also told the media that the Board of Inquiry will have to determine why Espina and Roxas were kept out of the loop.

Well Aquino doesn’t need a BOI to answer that question because he could very well answer it himself as he was present during the meetings.


Aquino lied about Purisima’s actual involvement in the operation. Aquino also feigned ignorance on why Espina and Roxas were kept in the dark. The President, in allowing a suspended Purisima to run the operations, and in disregarding the chain of command, violated his oath of office to uphold the laws of the land. It is a ground for his removal from office. ###



By now it is clear that President Benigno Aquino III is not telling the whole truth about his involvement in the Mamasapano operation that led to the deaths of 44 PNP SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters, 2 BIFF fighters and at least 3 civilians.

The demand for an impartial investigation, for an independent body, is gaining ground because of the gravity of the allegations and the obvious inability of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry to uncover the truth and hold accountable the highest official of the land.

Others have called for Aquino’s resignation over the bloody incident.

Cracks are showing within the administration as the police and military continue to hurl accusations against each other. The crisis is the inevitable result of Aquino’s actions in relation to Mamasapano.

No doubt, Aquino should be held accountable. His actions constitute grounds for his removal from office. And he should be criminally charged when he is no longer in office.

Once again, here are the six deadly sins committed by Aquino which led to the bloody Mamasapano clash.


1) Violating the chain of command by placing the suspended Gen. Alan Purisima in charge of the operation – When one is suspended from office, one is stripped of any official functions. One ceases to be part of the chain of command. The President of all people should know this. His decision to place Purisima in charge of the operation, even during the period of his suspension, is a serious offense. It also creates an untenable situation where there are two chains of command within the PNP organization. Former SAF Director Napenas affirms several times that it was Purisima who was running the Mamasapano operation. It was Purisima who told Napenas not to inform PNP OIC Leonardo Espina up until the SAF troopers have commenced the operation.


2)  Violating the suspension order of the Ombudsman – In making Purisima in charge of the Mamasapano operation, Aquino violated the suspension order of the Ombudsman. This is a clear violation of the law. Purisima is under investigation by the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in a corruption case within the PNP.


3) Failing to inform his own PNP OIC and DILG secretary of the operation – Aquino apparently had plenty of time to consult with Purisima and SAF director Napenas, but never had the time to inform both DILG secretary Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Gen. Leonardo Espina. Why so? Aquino says he is leaving that point to the Board of Inquiry!? Will the BOI invite Aquino to answer this question? We don’t think so. The omission is obviously deliberate. Aquino is aware of the conflict between Purisima and Roxas and in this case, the President chose to side with his barkada rather than uphold the mandate of his office.


4) Failing to coordinate with other cabinet officials and the AFP– The lack of coordination between the PNP SAF and the AFP proved to be fatal for 44 PNP SAF troopers. There was no air support, no other means of extracting the PNP SAF elements. Of all the people who knew about the operation, Purisima and Napenas included, Aquino was in the best position to inform other government agencies such as the DND and the DILG but such was not done. It is untenable that for such a major operation with immense implications, Aquino would just remind the SAF director to coordinate with other government agencies. It is also quite an anomaly that Purisima would tell the SAF director otherwise, and that Aquino would just be fine with it.


5) Failing to inform the government peace panel and the MILF, thus violating the ceasefire agreement – Aquino practically violated the ceasefire agreement by authorizing an operation into MILF areas without proper coordination. OPAPP’s Ging Deles says she knows nothing of Oplan Wolverine. The MILF thought there areas were under attack. The ceasefire mechanisms were only alerted when the heavy fighting was already underway. The AFP’s Gergorio Catapang, in an interview on ANC admits that launching an operation within the area would “unnecessarily provoke” the MILF and BIFF. What Aquino did was to put deliberately put his troops in harms way, marching them into a death trap. The use of the SAF for example, is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the ceasefire with the MILF by making the operation a “police operation” e.g. serving a warrant.


6) Allowing the participation of a foreign government in an internal operation – Former SAF director Napenas has admitted that the US was involved in Operation Wolverine. Various accounts have placed the US government as the source of the actionable intelligence on Marwan and Usman, via US assets within the MILF, as well as drone surveillance and GPS tracking. It is very likely that it was also the US that asserted the operation be compartmentalized between Aquino and Purisima and the SAF director. It is very likely that it was the US that directed Aquino to undertake the operation despite the potential loss of lives and huge political costs. Several news reports already point to this. One source says that it was the US obsession with Marwan that led to the deaths of the 44 SAF.


The Filipino people should not allow a cover-up of Mamasapano. Aquino, Purisima and their US handlers should be held accountable for their crimes. We cannot allow government to be run barkada-style, without regard for laws and without a shred of accountability.


For the sake of truth, accountability and justice, Aquino must go. ###






  1. Who authorized the PNP-SAF operations against terror suspect Marwan? At what level was this decided? It is unbelievable that 392 supposedly elite SAF elements were mobilized against a high-value target on the US most-wanted list, and Malacanang says it knew nothing. That’s just unlikely for an operation of that scale and of that importance.


  1. Did the US provide intelligence for the operation against Marwan? The US has long been involved in operations against terror suspects including Marwan. In 2012, it was reported that the US Pacific Command provided real-time intelligence and helped in an airstrike that supposedly killed Marwan. The Mamasapano operation was supposedly triggered by the interception of a cellphone communication involving the target. Was the operation undertaken upon the directive of the US? What was the extent of US involvement in the actual operation? Was the operation approved because of the $5 million bounty dangled by the US?


  1. Why was the operation conducted exclusively by the PNP? Why is the AFP saying that there was no coordination between them and the PNP SAF? Is this a means to circumvent the processes of the ceasefire mechanism? Or were there other considerations? The firefight lasted several hours. Throughout this period, was the AFP ever notified or informed? Was there ever a PNP request for support during the fighting and was this request ever acted on by the AFP? If not, why so?


  1. Why was the MILF peace panel not notified of the operation considering it was being undertaken in an area that is a known territory of the MILF? Was this deliberate or was this an oversight on the part of the Aquino government? Based on the established protocols, who should have informed the MILF?


  1. Finally, did Aquino know of the operations? As commander-in-chief of the AFP, and as one who claims to support the peace process with the MILF, did Aquino have prior knowledge of the Mamasapano operation?


The Aquino government has a lot of explaining to do. The incident already has affected the peace process, including the congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Some quarters are also agitating for all-out war.

Photo from DZRHNews


  1. The scope is very broad. Article II, Sec.4- The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement ((EDCA) provides US forces “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities. The agreement does not set any limits on what areas throughout the country could be accessed by US troops, how many troops can be allowed in these areas or facilities, and for how long these troops will be allowed to stay. For all intents and purposes, the entire country can host US troops. US forces can access and put up facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, making the agreement broader in scope compared to the 1947 Military Bases Agreement where bases were confined to Clark and Subic. There is also the question on the limits of the activities that can be undertaken in the “agreed locations”, for example, if the US would operate secret prisons or rendition sites in the Philippines, which would be contrary to law.


  1. The EDCA will mean permanent US presence – Article I, Sec.1 (b)- US troops will be given authority to access “agreed facilities” on a rotational basis. The agreement does not define what “rotational” means. In practice, under the VFA rotational deployment would mean the changing of personnel deployed in an area, resulting in the permanent presence of the troops. In Mindanao, 600 US Special Forces are being rotated, resulting in their permanent presence in the island since 2002. Rotational presence is euphemism for permanent presence. The provision that the EDCA will not lead to permanent presence or basing is worthless.


  1. The US will operate facilities as military bases and will drag us into overseas conflicts– Article III, Sec. 1 – The EDCA grants US force and private contractors access to “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities including but not limited to; training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vehicles, temporary maintenance of vehicles, temporary accommodation of personnel, communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel, and deploying forces and materiel. From the description above, the “agreed locations” will be operated as US military bases. One new feature of the EDCA is that it explicitly allows the Philippines to be a staging ground for US operations overseas.  This could range from being a launching pad of drone strikes, and other offensive operations that would make the Philippines involved in US conflicts abroad.


  1. The entire country could be an operating base– Article III, Sec. 2 – The Philippines shall assist transit or temporary access by US forces to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields), including those owned by local governments, and to other land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields). Again, the entire country can be used by US forces, making the EDCA much broader in scope than the previous RP-US Military Bases Agreement. It bears stressing that the pact does not define what “temporary access” means, except that it is distinct from “transit” or US forces just passing through.


  1. US forces will get a lot of perks under the EDCA. Article III, Sec.3 – US forces shall have access to “agreed locations” “without rental or similar costs”. So not only will US troops get unlimited access, they can also stay here rent-free. Article VII, Sec. 1 – US forces and their private military contractors can use utilities such as water and electricity but will be tax-exempt, with their supposed taxes being paid for by the Philippine government. Article 7 Sec.2- US forces will also be allowed radio frequencies free of charge.


  1. The illusion that we’re in-charge. Article III, Sec.4 – US forces will retain “operational control” of the “agreed locations” and will have authority to undertake construction of permanent facilities and improvement of existing facilities as well as put in place their own security measures. In Article 3 Sec.5, Philippine authorities shall have access to the entire area of the “agreed locations but this will be subject to the “safety and security requirements” agreed upon by the parties. Based on this, PH access to the US operated facilities will still have to go through “safety and security requirements” set by the US.  The Philippines will retain ownership of all facilities, at least on paper. Agreed locations, including permanent facilities built by the US will be turned over to the PH once the US no longer uses them. There is the possibility that the US will be compensated for the improvements and construction that they will undertake. So yes, on paper we own these facilities but these will only be returned to us if the US no longer has use for them, and we also might have to pay the US some form of compensation.


  1.  The Philippines as weapons depot. The US will be allowed to preposition equipment in the “agreed locations” and facilities (Article IV, Sec.1). These prepositioned equipment and war materiel shall be for the exclusive use of the US. These include, but not limited to, supplies for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Weapons and other possible hazardous materials may be among the items that can be stored in Philippines. The country will become a huge weapons depot, where Filipino troops become glorified security guards for the US forces and their equipment (Article VI, Sec 2). Surely this does nothing to help modernize the AFP.


  1. Our hands are tied. – Under Article XI, the PH cannot bring disputes arising from the agreement to any local or international court or third-party arbitration. All disputes will be settled exclusively through consultations by both parties. This effectively ties the hands of the Philippines and as a Atty. Sarah Arriola pointed out, grants immunity to US troops before the ICC. In cases such as environmental damage similar to the Tubbataha reef grounding of the USS Guardian, the EDCA does not provide guidelines for compensation (Article IX on the environment). Even in the event of the unintentional release of hazardous materials or waste, or an oil spill, the EDCA says the US will take action contain the hazard. However, the EDCA is silent on damages. (A side note, Article IX Sec.3 implies that the US will indeed be bringing in hazardous materials and hazardous waste into the country.)


  1. The EDCA gives almost the same treatment as regular US forces to private defense contractors.  Contractors can have “unimpeded access” to the “agreed locations” and to the prepositioned materiel and supplies (Article IV, Sec.4). US private contractors are notorious worldwide for their violations and for shielding the US government from accountability. EDCA will see a rise in the number of private contractors operating in the country. Article VIII Sec. 1 allows US forces to hire private contractors without restriction as to choice of contractor, supplier or person who provides materiel, supplies and services. These same private contractors are also tax-exempt when it comes to the use of utilities such as water and electricity.
  2. The agreement is in effect indefinitely. While Article XII Sec 4 says that the agreement is in effect initially for 10 years, “it shall continue in force automatically unless terminated by either Party.” Now given the indefinite nature of the agreement, and the rotational presence of US troops all over country, free of charge by the way, the EDCA is worse than the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

The EDCA is an affront to our sovereignty. It highlights our unequal relations with an imperialist power. The EDCA violates the 1987 constitution as it ensures permanent presence of US troops and the return of US bases under a broader, more flexible and more insidious arrangement and that this is done absent a treaty. As for the supposed benefits, nowhere in the agreement does it state how the AFP will actually modernize through the so-called joint exercises, rotational deployment of US troops and the prepositioning of weapons and materiel. Indeed, the benefits are close to nil. It is the US who stands to gain from the pact as it gets a stable foothold for power projection and military intervention in Southeast Asia.


Our duty is to fight this agreement, to fight the new US military occupation of our land.


Photo from Manila Bulletin

Newport News Shipbuilding Aerial

A private defense contractor has posted the first US Navy-related job opening in 20 years in Subic, Zambales, Philippines. From the job description, it appears that US warships will be frequenting the former US naval base. The position of project manager is open only to US citizens and requires a Secret-level security clearance and about 15 years experience in the US Navy.

Umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), who campaigned for the rejection of the US bases in 1991, says the private contractors are being used to circumvent the Philippine constitutional ban on US bases by making it appear that military operations are mere commercial transactions. US warships, including an advanced nuclear attack submarine, have had frequent port calls in the Philippines this year.

USS New YorkThe job opening was issued by AMSEC, a subsidiary of private military contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries which is the biggest builder of nuclear and non-nuclear ships for the US Navy and Coast Guard. AMSEC is in partnership with Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines to provide maintenance, repair and logistics services to the U.S. Navy and other customers in the western Pacific region.

“For more than a century, HII has built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder,” HII’s website says.

“This is a part-time position with a focus on growing U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command maintenance work at a commercial ship construction ship yard. Work hours are expected to grow as maintenance work increases, and occasional travel to the U.S. or Singapore may be required,” the AMSEC job placement says.

From this ad, it appears that the US is serious in using Subic for its warships. In a subtle way, the US is transforming a civilian facility back into a military hub through the use of private defense contractors. The use of these contractors to provide logistics and other support services for US warships may also be intended to circumvent the Constitutional ban on US bases absent a treaty ratified by the Senate. US bases were kicked out from the Philippines in 1991 and both the US and PH governments are careful not to indicate that they intend to bring back the bases now.

Instead of the US Navy itself that operates maintenance and logistics support services, they get a private contractor to do it so it won’t be so obvious that the US bases are back.

The US would make it appear that these are mere commercial transactions between the US Navy and private firms, but there is no mistaking the military character of the operations that will be conducted in Subic. The high-level security clearance and lengthy US navy experience required for the position of AMSEC project manager shows the sensitive nature of the job. The private contractor HII is the biggest producer of US nuclear and non-nuclear warships.

It won’t be long before full-blown logistics and servicing operations for US navy warships are conducted in Subic.

According to the job advertisement a successful candidate will have “a thorough knowledge of U.S. Navy readiness organizations, budgets, and leaders; a familiarity with surface ship maintenance industry competitors; and an in-depth knowledge of U.S. Navy contracts and programs. The candidate will participate in assessing shipyard repair capability, development of the strategy to grow this capability, and then drive the execution of the strategy”.

This is not the first time private military contractors have operated in the Philippines. DynCorp, a logistics provider for the US military has done work in the past for US military facilities in the Philippines, including the building of US forward bases in Mindanao. A DynCorp subsidiary recruited Filipino translator Gregan Cardeno, who later died under mysterious circumstances a day after he started work with US troops in Marawi province in Mindanao. The notorious Blackwater private military contractor was also reported by media to be operating out of Subic in the past. Private contractor Corporate Training Unit, an affiliate of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR)-Haliburton meanwhile operated in the former Clark Airbase.

Privatize military contractors make the US government a bit removed from any direct accountability to the Philippine government. They however remain part of the US military machinery and we may be seeing their increasing involvement in the Philippines as the US shifts most of its warships to Asia in the next ten years. ###

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