Mamasapano generals: Where are they now?
MANILA, Philippines – More than two years after a police operation in the sleepy town of Mamasapano, Maguindanao claimed the lives of over 60 people, President Benigno Aquino III was indicted by the Ombudsman for his alleged role in the botched mission.
Two police generals who played key roles in the planning and execution of “Oplan Exodus” were also indicted for allegedly conspiring with Aquino for the violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code.
Aquino was indicted for usurpation of authority because he “failed to prevent” his friend Alan Purisima from participating in the operation even if the police general was still suspended. Also named conspirator is Getulio Napeñas, former Special Action Force (SAF) who headed the operation.
What has happened to Purisima and Napeñas since the tragic operation?
A lot of things happened to the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief in the months preceding and following the botched “Oplan Exodus” – an operation whose initial intelligence came from Purisima himself.
He ordered Napeñas to work with Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez, then Intelligence Group chief, in the early planning for the operation.
The meeting between Napeñas and Purisima happened in November 2014.
But on December 4, 2014, the Ombudsman ordered Purisima suspended for 6 months over an allegedly anomalous contract with a courier company.
The PNP’s second-in-command then, Deputy Director Felipe Rojas was named officer-in-charge. After Rojas’ retirement in late December that year, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina took over.
Despite the suspension, a month later on January 5, 2015, Purisima received a full briefing from Napeñas. Days later on January 8, Purisima joined Napeñas and Mendez to brief the president at no less than his official residence, Bahay Pangarap.
Noticeably absent from the briefing were Espina and even Manuel Roxas II, then Interior Secretary.
On the day of the operation itself, Purisima was supposedly at his home in Nueva Ecija (which was also controversial because of corruption allegations). He was, however, fully privy to what was going on in Mamasapano.
Purisima himself was updating the president as reports of the botched operation came in. The police general, however, denied leading the operation. (READ: Mamasapano: Text messages show Aquino knew details)
On February 5, more than a week after the incident, Aquino announced during a Cabinet meeting that he had accepted Purisima’s “resignation” – a move that surprised even those from Purisima’s camp. Aquino made the announcement official during an address to the nation the next day.
By the end of February 2015, Purisima repeatedly declined granting an interview with the Board of Inquiry investigating the botched operation. He instead submitted an affidavit, which included a transcript of text messages he sent and received that day.
Although he was no longer chief of the PNP, Alan Purisima did not retire early from service and retained his 4-star rank even without a post.
He was eventually stripped of his stars on June 30, 2015, when he was dismissed by the Ombudsman. Purisima was not set to retire until November 2015, when he turned 56, the mandatory age for retirement.
Months later, on April 5, 2016, the Ombudsman first announced it would be filing graft and usurpation of authority charges against both Purisima and Napeñas. In January 2017, they were officially charged before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
On May 20, Purisima was arrested upon landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from a trip to the province. He posted bail the same day for charges over the allegedly anomalous deal with the courier company.
Purisima again posted bail on January 30, 2017, for charges related to Oplan Exodus.
The dismissed general’s legal problems don’t end there.
On July 6, 2017, the Ombudsman ordered a forfeiture case filed against him for allegedly amassing P29.2 million in ill-gotten wealth while he was in power. The Ombudsman also ordered forfeiture cases filed against his wife and children.
Napeñas, a homegrown member of the PNP SAF, was a little more fortunate than his former superior Purisima.
Although Napeñas was immediately sacked from his post after the clash in Mamasapano, he remained in the service as a 2-star general until he turned 56 in July 2016. Napeñas, in various investigations into the clash, provided a lot of key details about the operation.
He called Purisima the “focal person” in the planning of the mission when asked during a Senate hearing. “This was manifested by the fact that the President consulted with [Purisima] during the presentation,” said Napeñas in February 2015.
Napeñas said that he deferred to Purisima’s call despite the latter's suspension since “he was the one consulted by the President and had the intelligence packet.”
The retired general also asserted that Purisima was “giving vital information during the operation.”
It was Napeñas who revealed that after the briefing at Bahay Pangarap, Purisima spoke to Aquino alone as Napeñas and Mendez waited outside. After Aquino and Purisima’s private conversation, Purisima’s “advice” to Napeñas was not to inform both Roxas and Espina of the operation.
“Hindi nakagulo, nakatulong 'yung information na binigay sa amin (His instructions didn’t confuse us, they helped us),” Napeñas said then, when asked if Purisima’s input was detrimental to the operation. Aquino’s allies then insisted that the information Purisima gave the president was misleading.
Purisima has denied these allegations.
After he retired from service, Napeñas quietly slipped into obscurity until he announced his bid for a Senate seat in the 2016 elections. The retired police general ran under the banner of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of then vice president Jejomar Binay.
Before the elections officially began, Napeñas was again in the spotlight when the Senate reopened its probe into the bloody Mamasapano massacre. Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile had insisted they had new information to pin Aquino down.
Instead of pinning Aquino down, however, it was Napeñas’ actions and his alleged off behavior that became the focus of the hearing.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who had been repeatedly criticized for allegedly failing to fully help the trapped SAF troopers, said Napeñas was “detached from reality” the morning of January 25.
Napeñas failed to secure a Senate seat, placing 33rd in the elections, with just over 1.6 million votes.
The former police general once had a legal counsel lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre II, who was appointed Justice Secretary by Duterte in June 2016.
THE OTHER GENERALS
Most of the military or police officials named or involved in the aftermath of the operation have since retired from service. Espina retired in July 2015 while Benjamin Magalong, who led the PNP probe into the operation, retired in December 2016.
One of the Board of Inquiry's Operational Audit Team members, Ronald dela Rosa, was later appointed chief of the PNP by President Rodrigo Duterte. Mendez, who played a key role in the planning of the operation, is the PNP’s 3rd-in-command or the Deputy Chief for Operations. Dela Rosa and Mendez both belong to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1986.
The Western Mindanao Command commander then, Rustico Guerrero, has already retired from service. So too has Gregorio Catapang, the AFP chief then.
Carlito Galvez, the military general who led the government's side in the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, now heads the Western Mindanao Command.
Galvez was among the primary personalities who tried to broker a cease fire even as fighting raged between the SAF and local armed groups. – Rappler.com