Two years after 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were killed in battle in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, it is back in the news with President Duterte announcing that he has ordered the creation of an independent commission to look into it.
At the same time last Tuesday, state prosecutors filed charges in the Sandiganbayan against dismissed PNP Director General Alan Purisima and retired SAF Director Getulio Napenas for usurpation of authority and graft. These are the legal cases that have been filed and have to be resolved in court.
President Dutere, however, said the Mamasapano case is bigger than the legal charges filed against these two PNP officials. He, therefore, said in his meeting with the widows, orphans, and other members of the families of the SAF 44 that he is creating an independent seven-man commission that will try to answer many unanswered questions on the incident.
Despite the many separate probes by the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Commission on Human Rights, and the PNP Board of Inquiry, he said, some matters were never clarified – among them, the US role in Oplan Exodus, what happened to the $5-million reward offered by the US, why the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops did not go to the rescue of the trapped PNP men, why policemen were used in the first place when this clearly called for military action?
On the side, the President directed PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to review the congressional findings that led to the awarding of the Medal of Valor to only two of the SAF commandos and to make a recommendation for medals for the other fallen men.
The Mamasapano probe dragged on for months after the gunbattle on January 25, 2015. It is probably the single most critical factor behind the breakdown of the Aquino administration’s efforts for a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that would have set up a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
So many factors are interwoven in this one case – usurpation of authority, AFP-PNP relations, our relations with the US, peace in Mindanao, the SAF families’ deep sense of loss. We hope that this new effort by the Duterte administration to get to the bottom of the incident will not take too long, so that we can finally close the Mamasapano case.