Last March 11, 2017, Margarita Cojuangco, PhD, delivered her St. Antoninus of Florence Professorial Lecture entitled “The Mamasapano Saga: A Trail of Lies & Truth and the Decline of the Peace Process” at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.
Cojuangco problematized the massacre at Mamasapano on January 25, 2015, which claimed 44 lives of Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) commandos against the Muslim adversaries.
OPLAN EXODUS, a failure?
Cojuangco, who was able to interview the lone survivor among the PNP-SAF deployed to Mamasapano, relayed how the PNP-SAF, who entered the area early morning of January 25, 2015, were outnumbered by the enemy forces, who totaled to more than 1,000.
“They were outnumbered, and reinforcements were not ready. They were calling for back-up, but to no avail. Their only escape route was the same way they entered,” said Cojuangco.
In her analysis, Cojuangco, a full colonel of Reserve Forces of the Philippine Army herself, noted that the former President of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III, interfered in the chain of command. As a result, through then-PNP Director-General Alan Purisima, relieved SAF Commander Getulio Napenas was given the greenlight to execute the Oplan Exodus, which was aimed to capture the most wanted Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkifli “Marwan” bin Hir, who had two outstanding warrants, and his liaison Abdul Basit Usman, who had eight warrants for murder in various places, and other high-profile Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao.
According to Cojuangco, the operation was kept secret: “Upon Purisima’s instructions, when he was alone with Noynoy, he came out of the room and said that the Secretary of DILG [Mar] Roxas and [then Deputy Director General Leonardo] Espina, OIC, should not know about the operations.”
Cojuangco is a graduate of the masters and doctoral programs of the Department of History at the University of Santo Tomas. As an author of several volume publications, her area of research and scholarship is in Muslim Mindanao. As a colonel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, she has completed many monographs in strategic studies leading to the completion of a Masteral degree at the National Defense College. Cojuangco served as governor of Tarlac and President of the Philippine Public Safety College.