Aquino upset when he flew to Zamboanga on day of SAF-MILF clash – source

Standard

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – “We knew he was not in a good mood. It was like he was having a bad hair day.”

President Benigno Aquino III  INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDEThis was how a Philippine Daily Inquirer source described President
Aquino when he arrived on a chartered plane at the Edwin Andrews Air
Base (EAAB) here in the morning of Jan. 25, at the height of the
fighting in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that left 44 police commandos, 18
rebels and five civilians dead.

[1]

The source who was privy to the president’s visit in this city, said
Aquino “was not smiling” when he came down from the plane past 10 a.m.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and his staff were with the President.

Earlier that day, a C130 cargo plane landed. Its passengers included
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio
Pio Catapang, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Social Welfare Secretary
Corazon Soliman and their respective staff.

Maj. Gen. Esmeraldo Magnaye, 3rd Air Division Commander, said the two
aircraft did not stop at the usual ramp near Gate 1, but taxied towards
the Base Operations office.

Both the Philippine Daily Inquirer source and Magnaye confirmed that
the President did not leave the Base Operations office when he was
inside the EAAB.

The President’s visit surprised the local government, which was informed afternoon of January 24.

“We were all surprised by the short notice,” a source from the city government said.

As soon as Aquino arrived at the Base Operations office, he called
for a briefing, which was attended by the Cabinet secretaries; Mayor
Maria Isabelle Salazar; 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat; 2nd
District Representative Lilia Nuno; military officials like Lt. Gen.
Rustico Guerrero, chief of Western Mindanao Command; Chief Supt. Edgar
Basbas of Police Regional Office 9; and Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro,
Zamboanga City Police director.

The 10 a.m. to 12 noon briefing was focused on the rehabilitation efforts of Zamboanga City.

But at 1 p.m., Soliman, Abad, Salazar, Lobregat and Nuno left the
room. The source said the President, Gazmin and all the military and
police officers were left inside the room.

“Secretary Roxas came in and out of the room during the briefing,” the source said.

An hour later, Soliman and the others were told to return to the room
and “were informed to be ready for the site visit and inspection.”

At 2:30 p.m., all the vehicles that would be used for the site
inspection were on “engine ready mode” but it took almost an hour to
wait for the President to come out.

“When he (Aquino) went out of the room, mas lalong aburido ang mukha nya (he looked even more upset),” the source said.

The site visit was scheduled for 10 a.m..

Aquino went to the site of the car bomb blast in Guiwan village at
3:30 p.m., and proceeded to the Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center in
Barangay (village) Putik to visit a wounded policeman, and to the
Western Mindanao Medical Center on Santa Cruz Street where two blast
patients were confined.

At about 4 p.m., Aquino went to the Zamboanga Doctors Hospital to
visit two other blast victims, then to the La Merced Funeral Homes to
meet with the families of two persons who were killed in the blast. He
also visited another blast victim at the Ciudad Medical Center and 10
other victims at the Zamboanga City Medical Center in Santa Catalina
village.

Around 5 p.m., the President and his entourage arrived at the EAAB.

“We were all expecting that the President would immediately leave,” the source said.

But another security briefing was held.

The source said he “peeped” inside the room and saw “images flashed
on the projector’s screen– Google maps and timelines–and that was where I
got a little idea that something was wrong.”

“At about 6 p.m., President Aquino and his top military and police
officials moved further inside another room, which was out of our view.
We called the other room ‘inner sanctum,’” the source said.

The source said whatever happened inside the inner sanctum did not show on Roxas’ face.

“He was not tensed, only President Aquino,” the source said.

At 7 p.m., Secretaries Roxas, Gazmin, Abad, Soliman and Catapang left
the room to meet with members of the local chamber of commerce in a
nearby multipurpose hall.

“Mr. Aquino never left the inner sanctum. Everyone (businessmen) was
expecting to meet him, but the meeting proceeded at 7 p.m. without him,”
the source said.

Pedro Pocholo Soliven, president of the Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce, said Roxas hurriedly left the meeting.

“The President called Mar to proceed to the airport and they
hurriedly left for Manila. Mar excused himself and cut short the
meeting,” Soliven said.

This as another source said people from Malacañang were in Cotabato
City in the afternoon of January 25, and were trying to coordinate with
the military for the possible arrival of the President.

The source said the group was asking if the President’s plane could
land at the Awang Airport from Zamboanga City. Apparently, the plan did
not push through and one factor might have been the inadequate runway
lights at the airport, the source said.

Last January 26, Roxas, Gazmin, the Philippine National Police OIC
and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Gazmin and AFP chief of
staff Gregorio Catapang flew to Maguindanao to get details and updates
directly from the ground about the massacre of 44 Special Action Force
commandos who clashed with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

At around lunchtime, a briefing was conducted inside the headquarters
of the military’s 6th Infantry Division in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat
along with Getulio Napeñas, the SAF commander; 6th ID commander, Maj.
Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan; and Western Mindanao Command chief, Lt. Gen.
Rustico Guerrero.

Napeñas was trying to explain to the Cabinet secretaries and the
police and military commanders the details of the operation, most
especially about the coordination.

Sources said that Napeñas was already near Shariff Aguak on Saturday
evening while the 84th and 55th Special Action Companies were already
moving into position.

Napeñas allegedly claimed during the briefing that he sent a text
message to Pangilinan at between 3 and 4 in the morning informing him
that there was an ongoing operation in Mamasapano.

But Gazmin, who was silent during the entire briefing, spoke up and
showed to Napeñas the mobile phone of Pangilinan, which revealed that
the message was sent at 5:06 a.m., contrary to the claims of the
relieved SAF commander.

The text message was Napeñas’ way of informing Pangilinan that a law
enforcement operation was in progress supported by the ARMM and
Maguindanao police and was coordinated with the Army’s 1st Mechanized
Brigade.

“But there was no coordination with the local authorities and the
military. And the time Napeñas claimed that he sent the text message was
inaccurate. Why is he lying?” the source said.

Roxas was fuming when he arrived in Awang for the briefing, the source said.

“Was there a specific order from the President not to tell us?” Roxas asked Napeñas during the briefing.

But Napeñas refused to answer the question and instead divulged in
the briefing that he was directly taking orders and was giving feedback
to suspended PNP director general Alan Purisima on the developments in
the operation.

This answer only made Roxas angrier, the source said.

The military said the troops, most especially from the 45th Infantry
Battalion, were already geared up to respond as early as Sunday morning
but were hampered by the lack of coordination and information.

Sources said the gunfire was clearly audible from the nearest
detachment of the 45th IB, which is only at least 4-5 kilometers away
from the scene of the firefight.

By Sunday noon, tanks and military trucks carrying heavily armed
soldiers had rolled out from their camps ready to provide support.

But the questions remained, “where are we exactly going? How many
friendly forces are in the area? Who and how many are they engaging?”
the source shared.

Apparently, the lack of coordination by the PNP-SAF blindsided other
security forces and left them with no other option but to wait for
further details to complete the puzzle.

Even the artillery assets of the military were already awaiting
command on Sunday morning but the leadership opted not to fire blindly
as this would only put the lives of the commandos and even the civilians
at risk.

 | Source

via Blogger http://ift.tt/1AIPykX

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s