The Carnage of Special Forces

My heart grieved for the widows of those who perished in the Maguindanao encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) last Sunday. The earlier PNP report said that 44 police personnel, most of them of the Special Action Force (SAF) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), were killed in an encounter that appeared to be a carnage.
More than 50 police personnel went to Mamapasano, in Maguindanao to allegedly serve a warrant of arrest on a suspected terrorist. An Afghanistan-trained bomb-makers identified as Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkipli bin Hir, alias Marwan; and his cohort Abdul Basit Usman were reportedly sighted in the area.
The MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter BIFF denied the presence or knowing the whereabouts of the alleged terrorists in their area.
The alleged terrorists have been tagged responsible for a series of bombings in Central Mindanao and carries a U.S. $ 5 million on their heads.
Yet, the government lost more than the U.S.$ 5 million with the death of 49 PNP personnel and the wounding of a dozen more. Perhaps, most, if not, half of those who joined the raiding team were graduates of the famed Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA where the government spent about P 4 million for each of PNPA students until graduation (aside from the expenses involved in the training of SAF). Certainly, the absence of appropriate and detailed tactical planning resulted in the encounter.
However, we do not believe that the officers, especially the PNP’s Chief Supt. in the Central Mindanao region, would simply allow his men to go into a war trap without appropriate preparation and planning. We do not also believe that the ground commander of the PNP team lacks the tactical knowledge in the handling of a delicate situation. Thus, for a highly trained PNP-SAF personnel, the incident should not have happened. If ever, the amount of losses would have been minimal.
Sometimes, we think that our special forces still lack the skills in special warfare techniques. We have the observation that in the training of our special forces, we focused so much on the physical fitness of the candidate. We forget that the physical attribute is only secondary.
We also get fresh recruits as members of an elite special force when it should not be the case at all. We should have a special forces who are veterans of various actual encounters. We need a special force who is an expert in varied fields. We should not be cynical of the age of the special force. What we need is an assurance that a special force would be able to take care all the equipment and resources that we would assign to them, too. In any eventuality, we expect the special force to accomplish the desired mission sans casualty.
In the Maguindanao incident, we observed that the operation was led by too many police officers and dozen of police teams. The situation appeared that the SAF and CIDG operatives were going to war! Even though, the SAF should not operate that way.
Candidly speaking, I do not know how to handle guns, but I am theoretically equipped to direct an operation of that magnitude. I do need the expertise of special forces, but I would not send a battalion to arrest a person because of an “unsubstantiated information.” The lack of coordination is not an issue.
Notwithstanding, the PNP hierarchy should relieve the entire PNP regional staff of Central Mindanao so that the fact finding committee could freely dig on the case. Charge those responsible in court. -0-


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