FORT DEL PILAR—President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday took a swipe at the PNP-Special Action Force after praising a neophyte soldier here, suggesting the elite group was less than competent during the graduation rites for the PMA Class of 2015.
He bestowed the Distinguished Conduct Star on Second Lieutenant Jerson Sanchez, a member of the PMA Class of 2014, for leading his platoon in an assault on a communist encampment in Sarangani that resulted in the killing of seven rebels.
“Let me stress: Lieutenant Sanchez is a new soldier and not a member of an elite unit,” Aquino said alluding to the PNP-SAF.
“But in the short period that he has been in the service he has shown great courage and effective leadership,” Aquino added.
“It is clear to him that if he persists in pursuing the enemy, they will have second thoughts about doing operations because the soldiers guarding them are first-rate.”
But many senior officers were surprised by the award bestowed on Sanchez. They said they had been expecting recognition for the troopers that helped extricate the beleaguered SAF commandos who were on a mission to arrest the terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25.
Forty-four of the commandos were killed during a firefight with Muslim rebels, and they were killed because they received no support while being surrounded by the enemy.
A report by the PNP Board of Inquiry released on March 12 said the commandos were killed apparently because the chain of command was broken, and that Aquino broke the chain of command.
Meanwhile, the group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the web of lies being spun by Aquino was getting bigger and bigger after the Palace criticized the findings of the Board of Inquiry for saying Aquino, the commander in chief, broke the chain of command during the police operation in Mamasapano.
Former Police Chief and senator Panfilo Lacson also defended the BOI after presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it “introduced innuendos and resorted to speculations to reach some of its conclusions.”
“The BOI was created by the Interior secretary to perform a fact-finding mandate and nothing more,” Lacson said.
“In their report, did not hold anybody, much less the President, liable for any violation of the law. They simply stated the facts and evidence as they gathered them. I don’t see any innuendos and speculations in their report.”
Aquino has put the blame on the Mamasapano debacle on sacked SAF director Getulio Napeñas, claiming his poor planning led to the carnage after the 44 commandos were waylaid by the MILF and BIFF rebels while withdrawing after neutralizing Marwan.
However, he has not explained why suspended National Police Chief Alan Purisima was part of the operation in Mamasapano when he under suspension.
The families of the 44 commandos have been demanding justice for their slain loved ones.
Meanwhile, Aquino on Sunday was all praise for Sanchez.
“We do not expect a neophyte to be an expert, and that is why Second Lieutenant Sanchez is admirable,” he said.
“It has been less than a year when he graduated, but the ability he has shown is unique.”
Sanchez led his platoon in an assault on the encampment of about 30 heavily-armed communists Datal Andas village in Alabel, Sarangani, on Feb. 16 this year.
Aquino said he wanted Sanchez to be promoted outright to first lieutenant, but the military procedures must be followed.
Meanwhile, Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto said on Sunday that it was clear from the BOI report that Aquino should not have ordered his close friend Purisima to participate in the Mamasapano operation.
“I don’t know if you want to call it chain of command, but Purisima should not have been ordered. He has nothing to do with Oplan Exodus,” Recto said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that Aquino did not break the chain of command because there is no such concept in the PNP.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had described the violation of the chain of command as the “root cause” of the lack of coordination between the police and the military. With Joyce Pangco Pañares, Dexter A. See and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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