US explains role in Mamasapano operation
SOUTH CHINA SEA JAN. 15, 2016: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur (inset) is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson/Released)
MANILA (Mabuhay) – US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Friday confirmed that America played a role in the Mamasapano operation, but insisted that it was done “within the legal framework” of both countries.
“There is cooperation, that all of this is done within the legal framework, and that there are agreements, and everything was done consensually or at the request of the Philippine government,” Goldberg said.
During the reopened Mamasapano hearing at the Senate on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said that the government should explain the role of the US in Oplan Exudos, which was aimed at neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Enrile cited that the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement deals only with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“It does not cover police operations which is actually nothing more than the enforcement of the criminal laws of the Philippines handled by the police organization of the country,” Enrile said after former Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas claimed that the US provided “real-time intelligence” during the operation.
The Philippine National Police’s Board of Inquiry also mentioned in its report that the US provided real-time intelligence during the operation.
Goldberg said during the interview that the US has agreements with the Philippine National Police.
“We have agreements that cover the police as well and our cooperation with Special Action Force has to do with international terrorism. We have dealt with the Special Action Force,” he said, insisting that the role of the US in the operation was done within the legal framework of the Philippines and America.
There were reports that “real-time” situation of the operation in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town on Jan. 25, 2015 were fed to a command center in Zamboanga City through a US drone.
Goldberg declined to confirm or deny the presence of a US drone in Mamasapano during the operation.
“I’m not going to discuss specifics of a very sensitive matter publicly,” he said, adding that information about the role of the US in the Mamasapano operation have been provided to investigating bodies, including that of the Senate.
He reiterated that the US had no participation in the planning and execution of the Mamasapano mission.
He said that the only physical role of the US during the operation was for “casualty evacuation.”
The US also helped the Philippines confirm that Marwan was killed during the operation through DNA testing.
The samples used in the DNA testing came from a finger cut off from a body believed to be that of Marwan inside a hut in Barangay Tukanalipao.
A total of 44 SAF members were killed in the operation.
Meanwhile, Goldberg confirmed that the $5-million reward for the death of Marwan during the operation is “already in process.”
He declined to confirm that a claimant of the reward has been identified and confirmed by the US.
The Philippine government also offered a P7.4-million reward for the capture of the international terrorist.
PNP chief Ricardo Marquez has said during the reopened Mamasapano probe that the rewards have not been claimed. (MNS)