A COMPANY of policemen including some from the Special Action Force were said to have entered an area in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, early Wednesday morning to go against high-value targets but were detected and quickly surrounded by MILF fighters, a reliable source from the intelligence community told The Manila Standard on Thursday.
The source said the policemen entered the lair of the MILF’s 106th Base Command based on information that Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco alias Jihad were hiding in the area.
“Not a single bullet was fired from both sides because the police combatants were detected and were being yelled at by MILF fighters to go back where they came from to avoid an encounter,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They were surrounded and told by the MILF to get out if they didn’t want to be fired at.”
Philippine National Police spokesman Generoso Cerbo Jr. could not be immediately reached for comment.
Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, public affairs chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, said they too heard of such report but they were still to confirm it.
Records showed it was not the first time that PNP-SAF commandos were surrounded by Muslim rebels and ordered to put their hands up and later became a “hand-saf” joke.
The first “hand-saf” incident involving SAF troopers happened in Tabiaran village in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, years after the unit was established in the early 90s, when some troopers were surrounded by MILF fighters.
The second incident happened at the Kapatagan Grande in Sitio Fuente Egas, Barangay Masula, Isabela City, Basilan, when SAF troopers were again surrounded and asked to surrender, and this time by fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front.
And in 1995, SAF troopers were caught in between thousands of Army troopers and MILF fighters and were again ordered to get out in Matanog, Maguindanao.
The PNP-SAF again was in the news after its disastrous mission on Jan. 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, when its commandos were waylaid by hundreds of MILF and its faction BIFF fighters and some private armed groups. The 12-hour firefight killed 44 SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters and five civilians.
The SAF troopers were withdrawing after neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan when they were attacked and pinned down that led to the massacre. Usman and Baco and their handful of followers escaped.
The sacked former SAF director Getulio Napeñas and suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima and President Benigno Aquino III were blamed for the death of the SAF troopers.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, along with the MILF leadership, blamed the SAF for not coordinating their mission against high-value targets that led to the death of the commandos.
The military in the area was also blamed for not providing prompt reinforcement to extricate the pinned down commandos.