As the House of Representatives continue with its investigation on the botched Mamasapano operation Wednesday, a party-list lawmaker raised the question of whether past diplomatic visits of top-level US officials to the Philippines, including the state visit of US President Barack Obama last year, were connected with the counterterrorism operations against Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.
“Both the BOI and Senate reports have given us essential clues on the involvement of US forces in Oplan Exodus, including the revelation that six US operatives were present in the tactical command post during the conduct of the operation, and the submission of Marwan’s finger directly to the FBI. But what we have yet to see is how this arrangement – of Washington being heavily involved in a local police operation – has been brokered at the top level,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said, saying that his interpellation in today’s hearing will center on the said issue.
Ridon said that he will ask resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima and former PNP SAF Director Getulio Napeñas if they have any knowledge on how the “US-Philippines joint operation” was brokered by the Aquino administration with top level US officials.
“In particular, we will ask if Oplan Exodus and the related counterterrorism operations before it has anything to do with the separate visits to the Philippines of US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel back in 2013, President Obama’s state visit in 2014, and even the recent visit of known US operatives and former US ambassadors John Negroponte and John Maisto just this January,” Ridon said.
Carter and Hagel visited the Philippines in March and August of 2013, respectively, a time when the counterterrorism operations against Marwan, Usman, and other “high-profile targets” may have already been “at the drawing boards or even at the final phase,” Ridon noted. “Part of their agenda in their separate visits may have been to fine-tune the counterterrorism operations in Mindanao and how the US and Philippines forces will jointly conduct said operations.”
Ridon added that the operation might have also been discussed, albeit briefly, during President Obama’s state visit last year.
“What’s more intriguing is the emergency visit of former US ambassadors John Negroponte and John Maisto to the Philippines just a few days after the Mamasapano clash. Is there a connection? I think yes.”
Negroponte and Maisto, along with other US officials were in the Philippines last January 29 to 31 purportedly to attend a board meeting of the US-Philippines Society.
“To determine the extent of US involvement and intervention in the botched Mamasapano operation, we have to explore all possible links, including how top US executives may have brokered a deal with Aquino and his cabinet to arrange these covert counterterrorism operations.
“By exploring – and eventually exposing these possible links – we will be able to know more about the operation and the extent of Aquino’s corroboration with the Americans for this bloody mission. This information is pivotal for us to answer the question of whether Aquino knowingly and willingly heeded Washington’s plan to get Marwan, despite the clear and present danger of sacrificing innocent lives,” Ridon ended.