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Thursday, February 26, 2015

AFP, ‘ceasefire damaging’ PNP walk as one but ex-President Ramos no-show

AFP, ‘ceasefire damaging’ PNP walk as one but ex-President Ramos no-show

Former President Fidel V. Ramos INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

The police and the military’s Unity Walk to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution on Wednesday betrayed none of the cracks in their relationship that surfaced during the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano fiasco.

But the picture of unity was marred by a general’s accusation that the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police chronically ignored the rules of engagement in Moro-controlled areas in Mindanao.

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.,chair of the Philippine government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), said the PNP’s “ceasefire-damaging” and “blatant disregard” of ceasefire mechanisms in its law enforcement operations had created “enmity” between the police and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and “friction” between commanders of the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He made this accusation in a seven-page assessment of the Mamasapano debacle that he submitted to the AFP chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, on Feb. 4.

But this wrinkle in PNP-AFP relations was nowhere to be seen on Wednesday.

Police and military personnel, numbering around 300 each and converging at the MRT Santolan station, gamely marched and linked arms on the Edsa northbound lane, to join commemoration activities at the People Power Monument where President Aquino laid a wreath Wednesday morning.

Asked if the walk was a bid to belie the rift between the PNP and the AFP, Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, AFP Civil Relations Service head, said, “I don’t think so.”

Shining moment

Kakilala, who led the military contingent in the Unity Walk, said: “This is just to celebrate the [29th] Edsa anniversary, to celebrate when the nation gained its democracy in 1986. It was a shining moment for the country. We became a model [for other countries].”

Chief Supt. Nestor Quinsay Jr., head of the Police Community Relations Group, who was at the forefront of the police contingent during the Unity Walk, echoed Kakilala’s statements.

“This is to celebrate the Edsa anniversary, but also to show to our citizens that the AFP and PNP have strong, solid ties. It’s not true that we have a rift. And [the Edsa anniversary] is the perfect time to show that,” Quinsay said.

The soldiers came out of Camp Aguinaldo’s Gate 2 and met with some 300 policemen who were coming out of Camp Crame. It was the first time that former President Fidel Ramos did not join the unity march.


Quinsay noted that the Unity Walk was like a reenactment of the joining of forces by police and military units in the rebellion against the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

Kakilala marched arm in arm with the SAF officer in charge, Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, who he said was his classmate at the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1984. Taliño led at least 11 SAF personnel in the Unity Walk.

Kakilala and Taliño were chatting and smiling before the Unity Walk pushed out toward the People Power Monument at 10:30 a.m.

Military and police security detailed along the way, at the flanks of the marching contingent, also linked arms as the Unity Walk marchers passed them.

A police brass band lent a festive air to the march.

Whatever tension there was among the ranks dissipated before the walk started. Officials in front were told off by a barong-clad organizer with a megaphone for linking arms too early. This prompted a ripple of laughter from the officials’ subordinates and gibes of “Praktis lang! (Just practicing!)”

Though the heat of the sun obviously left the Unity Walk participants uncomfortable, prompting them to seek shelter at the MRT Santolan station, once the march pushed through, the marchers were able to keep a steady, unified cadence.

Participants could be seen breaking out into grins, as they passed colleagues and the media on the sidelines.
In his report on the Mamasapano debacle, Galvez said the “ceasefire-damaging” history of the PNP surfaced anew when it launched the mission to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which was executed with “extreme secrecy.”

Galvez said the military, local police and the CCCH were not informed until 5:30 a.m. of Jan. 25 when the SAF was “already heavily engaged.”


He said he got wind of the snafu at 6:38 a.m. from the MILF representative in the CCCH, Rashid Lidiasan.
Galvez reckoned that while the ceasefire mechanism succeeded in containing the firefight in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, it failed in preventing the unnecessary loss of lives of 44 PNP-SAF troops and 22 Moro rebels and civilians.

Galvez noted that the CCCH was informed two hours after the SAF had reached its target which was why the crisis committee was formed only six hours later.

He blamed the SAF for “intentionally withholding information” on the ground that “greatly affected and restrained our mediation and negotiations for a ceasefire.”

He said the situation became even more complicated with the presence of the MILF, Moro bandits and private armed groups in the area.

Galvez said that in the two years the ceasefire agreement was in effect, the military faithfully complied with the existing mechanisms.

“The SAF in particular conducts LEOs (law enforcement operations) in areas with MILF communities and base commands without prior coordination and complete disregard of the existing ceasefire agreements,” said Galvez.

He cited two SAF missions in Maguindanao in 2013 and 2014, and one mission in Lanao in 2012 where the PNP did not coordinate with the military. “These nearly caused open armed confrontations between PNP forces and the MILF, and jeopardized the ongoing peace process,” said Galvez.
Galvez said that during the term of Lt. Gen. Rey C. Ardo, who was the commander of the 6th Infantry Division from 2011 to 2012, the SAF was “very persistent” in arresting Usman in the same general area of the encounter site in the Linguasan Marsh complex.

Rejected three times

Ardo rejected SAF’s plans on three occasions because the 6th ID believed that the mission would “pose colossal risks” to the peace process and lead to “unacceptable, anticipated heavy casualties” due to its close proximity to the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter areas, and the “swampy killer” terrain.
Galvez was appointed to the CCCH in July last year in place of Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, the head of the 6th Infantry Kampila Division in Camp Siongco, Datu Ondin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.