On coordination between AFP, PNP-SAF

Transcript of Question and Answer
Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident
10 February 2015

Sen. Pia Cayetano: Madam Chair, let me put on record that I have absolutely no military training, I have never been in combat, and I don’t feel I have the right to ask you any technical questions. But I am a female senator elected by the public, so I will ask questions that mothers, that wives, would want to hear. So let me direct everyone’s attention to the AFP report, wherein there was a timeline. And I read, and these are based on my notes already. At 5:42 AM, Director Napenas called and asked if they can be provided with assistance. Many other things happened from 5:00 AM, let me jump to 11:08 AM, and the text message was, ‘The pinned down SAF group is just 1.2 kilometers away, from highway Mamasapano, and the nearest SAF team is 700 meters from the highway.’ In other words, 500 meters na lang ang layo nila doon sa nangangailangan ng tulong. I do not understand as a civilian why between 5AM to 11AM, and then let me now jump to 5:30 PM which is the next text message that says, ‘There is now movement in the area of conflict.’ So there’s 500 meters and all that time, wala tayong magawa. I know that that is technical, but somebody has got to explain this in non-technical terms so that mothers and wives, parents, will understand. Bakit hindi nasaklolohan? May I direct the question from someone in PNP and then someone from Armed Forces, and perhaps, Sec. Roxas because it was his response earlier today, that also helped give me a better understanding. In fact, to make it simple, I’ll make my next question, and then just answer it together. Yesterday paulit-ulit kong naririnig yung ‘Time on Target.’ First time kung narinig kay Sec. Roxas yung ‘Fire on [our] location.’ Meron palang order na ganoon. And so I asked my seatmate here, Senator Honasan, a graduate of PMA, to help me understand who gives that [fire on our position] order? Could somebody answer to help us understand who gives that order or request na, ‘Sige na bombahin n’yo na kami. Baka nga mayroon sa aming mabuhay, baka halos lahat kami mabuhay, kaysa sa wala.’ Who gives that order? And my seatmate here, who was the baron of his class, humbly tells me, ‘I’m not the expert, Pia.’ But he understands it better than I do and he said that that should all be in the operational plan. Hindi na dapat ito pinag-iisipan pag nandun na. So help us understand. I also submit that there is the Board of Inquiry that said earlier that they are simply presenting the facts and the analysis will come later. I respect that, but just help us understand for now. Thank you.

Sec. Mar Roxas: Thank you Madam Chair and Senator Cayetano, Pia. Yun pong ‘fire on my position,’ there was no order. From what I understand, there was no order that was given. But it is a concept that is accepted and discussed. That in crucial, dire, desperate situations, ground commanders have been known to ask for fire support, whether by air or artillery, on their own position because they are at risk of being overrun. And by being overrun, either they will all be killed, and so the concept is, ‘Paputukan nyo na kami kasi at least kung naka-fox hole kami or nakahukay kami ay baka may chance na ma-save kami kaysa mao-overrun. I did not go to PMA, but I know that that concept does exist, and rightfully so, that request will be made by the ground commander who is at risk of being overrun. Because in effect, it’s almost like asking for an experimental drug for cancer. ‘Bigyan n’yo na ako ng experimental drug kasi kung hindi n’yo naman ako bibigyan nitong gamot na ito, mamamatay din naman ako sa cancer, eh.’ Parang ganun yon eh. So the only person that can make that decision is the person concerned. And so it would seem to me that the person who can ask for that is the commander on the ground that is at risk of being overrun, which would be the, in this case, the 55th. Again, you know, in hindsight, everybody is an expert eh. Hindi ako nagmamarunong dito. Yung Monday morning everything that happened on Sunday, ang linaw-linaw, but at that time, we don’t know. The only reason I brought that up is because noong nagkaroon na ng grid coordinates, tanggap ko na mayroon nang doktrina yung AFP, na it’s not just important to say where you are, it is also important to say nasaan ang kalaban, it’s also important to say ano ang layo, kasi may mga distance yan eh no. Ganunpaman, kung ganoong ka-desperate ang situation at hindi ko alam kung ano yung communication na nangyayari, between the command post of the SAF and the command post of the AFP, between the commander of the 55th and his command post, hindi natin alam kung ano yung mga komunikasyon noon, but it would seem to me that that could have been a possibility. [Confers with PNP officials] As I said po, Madam Chair, everything is clearer after the fact. The survivor of the 55th, si PO2 Lalan, said na ‘Naubusan na sila ng bala.’ But know that we only knew that after he was recovered na. Di ba hindi naman natin, madaling magsabi, na wala na silang bala, kaya better na papatakan na sila ng artillery, but we only know that from PO2 Lalan now na nagre-recount sya na naubusan sila ng bala. So yun lang ang point that I wanted to bring up at that time. For example, had there been communication, that’s not established, I want to be very clear no, maingat na maingat ako rito dahil nakasalalay po rito ang tiwala ng ating unipormadong hanay sa isa’t isa. So we have to be very careful. So had we known at the time na mayroon ngang ganoong komunikasyon, wala na kaming bala, at that time, then judgments could be made na, hindi ba? Pero wala naman ganoong komunikasyon.

Sen. Cayetano: Just a quick comment. Both of us are civilians, so tayo hindi natin alam kung kailan mauubusan, but I would think these people here would have an idea that if you have been firing for 12 hours, I think you would have an idea how much ammunition these people have. I can’t make that judgment, I’m assuming that somebody there should know even if you don’t get that call na wala na kaming bala. They would know na there have been non-stop gunshots for six hours, it’s now the 12th hour, wala na siguro. I’m just saying, you know, that’s why I said I’d like to hear from Sec. Roxas, who like me is a layman, to explain to me and the people in general, para marinig din natin sa technical, and ma-try nating ma-interpret in a non-technical manner.

Sec. Roxas: Kaya mahalaga na malaman natin ang pahayag ng bawat isa na kinukuha ng CIDG, pati yung mga record ng text, mga komunikasyon, ay makuha, para malaman talaga what did they know. It’s clear that at 6[AM] something, the coordinate was already be given. Now is that sufficient to fire the artillery or not? I don’t know, the AFP has a protocol. An interesting question would be, what did they know to allow them to fire the three white phosphorus round at 1630H, and how is that so different from 0600H in the morning versus 1630H ng hapon? Sorry 1745H. Noong 1745H, nakapagpatak sila ng tatlong white phosphorus, so what were the conditions that allowed them to do that that was different from the morning portion?

Sen. Cayetano: I can only surmise na ‘patay na mga bata natin, tirahin na natin, baka may mabuhay pa,’ and by then it’s too late. Again I can only surmise because I don’t have the technical expertise and I wasn’t there.

Sec. Roxas: That is why, again, even after the Senate hearings, we will be going through this so that in fact we can really improve and refine ano ba ang protocols na… I think Gen Pangilinan was raising his hand.

Sen. Cayetano: Yes as I said earlier I would want to hear from PNP and AFP. So I don’t know if General Catapang or General Pangilinan would be in a better position because he’s on the ground, so whoever can give us more clarity.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan: Malaki po ang pagkakaiba yung sitwasyon noong umaga at hapon. Nung umaga po is wala kaming clear picture, kulang pa kami sa impormasyon ng location ng ating friendly forces, yung location ng kalaban, yung location ng civilian, ng community, kung anong klaseng luga po ang labanan. Noong hapon, mayroon na po tayong kumpletong impormasyon kasi naka-gather na tayo ng information. Ulitin ko na lang po ang sinabi ko kahapon…

Sen. Cayetano: Sandali lang po para mas maliwanag sa akin, Yung po bang SAF na naroon familiar ba sila sa territory such as kaya nilang mag-relay ng specific na information? Kasi that was one of the issues, na hindi daw ganoon ka-familiar yang SAF sa territory.

Maj. Gen. Pangilinan: Hindi ko po masasagot yan dahil sila po ang nag-conduct ng operation. But as far as communication is concerned, between the SAF that is being engaged, and the command group where I am staying, wala po kaming contact.

Sen. Cayetano: Let me go to Gen. Napenas… Did they have enough training in the area to be able to give those coordinates?

PDR Getulio Napenas: Yes they have the familiarity of the area because we have intelligence, reconnaissance personnel who have been moving in that area before, because that has already been done as early as November 29, and the next was December 13, then there’s January 25. As to the statement that Gen. Pangilinan was saying that they don’t have the location, if I may, as early as 6:22 that they were saying that the SAF troopers… they already forwarded the location. At 7:53 in the morning I sent a text message to Gen. Talino, eto po yung contents ng text message kasi during that time, si Police Chief Superintendent Talino was already with the brigade commander of the mechanized brigade, 7:53 in the morning. [READS] ‘Noli location of SAF troops [READS GRID COORDINATES] nasa paligid ng first grid coordinates ang mga kalaban and tuloy pa rin heavy firefight baka pwede hingi artillery support.’ The response of Chief Superintendent Talino to me in the morning, ‘Sir as of now, nega daw muna artillery at baka may mga sibilyan at mga bata. Nag-commit ng 6th armor at 50 infantry…’ I sent a text message also to the brigade commander at 8:39, [READS] ‘Gener,’ that’s the brigade commander of the mechanized brigade Ma’am, your honor, ‘Gener Good AM, ito yung location [READS GRID COORDINATES], request indirect fire, wala mga sibilyan doon kanina pa.’ Our personnel who are deployed in the field who participated in the operation, they have the Geographical Positioning System. A minimum of three per unit, that’s why if they were saying that they cannot pinpoint with accuracy their location, I beg to disagree with that because they have already been provided with grid coordinates and the location of the enemy your honor.

Sen. Cayetano: Can we continue, can you kindly respond to that? There are two separate messages that were sent with specific details.

Maj. Gen. Pangilinan: Yes your honor. Kaya nga po pinapaliwanag ko na nagkukulang po yung data. Alam nyo po ba na nalaman namin na may 84th SAC pala noong hapon na. Hindi po namin alam na may 84th SAC. Yung 84th SAC nga po nalaman namin sa hapon na after we gathered all the information. In fact we do not even know na 55th SAC yung naingkwentro. We do not even know na mayroong 45th SAC pala, 45thg SAC, and we do not know the location of those friendly forces. So napakahirap po na magde-decide ka na magpa-fire ka ng artillery. This is a bomb and you do not know kung saan po yung specific na target. Kaya po nabanggit ko kanina kung pinagsisihan ko po ba yung judgement call ko at that time? Hindi po, kasi baka kung nagpaptuok tayo noong mga panahon, noong oras na yun, mas marami po tayong casualties o baka mas malaki po ang problema na kinakaharap po natin ngayon. Yun po ang gusto kong ipaabot sa atin. Dahil sa kakulangan ng impormasyon na hawak namin during that time, at babalik po ako sa sinasabi ko that if we have a coordination prior to that conduct of their operations, we could have prepared better, and we could have provided them the support that they needed. Hindi po kasi namin nakita yung kanilang concept of operations. Hindi po namin alam yung kanilang dinaaanan, only noong maipresent na lang po dito ng CIDG na nalaman namin, or probably kayo din po ay nalaman nyo nitong nag-present na lang. And during that time ng engkwentro, wala po tayong picture na ganun. At napakahirap po na mag-imagine ng area of operations.

Sen. Cayetano: Madam Chair I’ve been given a slip that says my time is up. I think this discussion has not ended, but if I were your boss, I would simply to say to you: ‘Mag-usap kayo.’ It’s as simple as that. I mean, I can ask you so many more questions, but it’s very clear that you didn’t communicate the way you should have. #

Photo credit: Senate PRIB

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