This fiasco of a raid is beginning to take a life of its own. In its most recent reincarnation, not-so-subtle attempts are now being made to pin the blame on the AFP, Sec. Deles, and the President of the Philippines (POTPHI) himself. Talks of another military revolt are now even being floated in the mass media.
We have, therefore, no choice but to dissect this caper in a more detailed manner. We do not want certain militant sectors of Philippine Society to take matters into their own hands solely on the basis of haphazardly-analyzed conclusions.
Army Reinforcements Never Arrived
Operations of this magnitude are planned months in advance. All units involved are notified and trained months in advance too. You do not just inform another unit to assume a life-or-death role in the operation hours after the operation was already under way. If this was not done for the Marwan Raid, who is to blame? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Raiding Team Insertion and Extraction
This type of raid is normally executed through heliborne operations in a quick-in and quick-out manner (eg. Son Tay & Abottabad). Was the SAF Raiding Team inserted and extracted by helicopter? If not, who made that call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Time on Target
Time on target should ideally not exceed 30 minutes (Son Tay was 27 min; Abottabad was 38 min). The Marwan Raid obviously did not comply with this time constraint? 2 hours after insertion, the raiding team was still in the target area. This is where extraction by helicopter could have made a big difference.
If there are numerous hostiles within the vicinity of the target, a diversionary attack should first be made to draw hostiles away from the target. Did the Marwan Raid have a diversionary component? If not, who made the call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Close Air Support
The fire support component of the mission should be sufficient enough to overcome any unexpected unfavorable situations encountered. Son Tay was supported by 116 aircraft. How many aircraft supported the Marwan Raid? If none, who made that call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Land-Based Fire Support
Since the planners of the Marwan Raid appeared to have deliberately excluded fire support by air, they should have compensated for this by increasing fire support by land. Were 81mm mortars deployed on the Marwan Raid? They would have been particularly effective against massed insurgent formations, as well as in harassing suspected sniper positions. If not, who made the call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Raiding Force Outnumbered
Officially, there were 392 SAF men on this mission. 44 were KIA. 11 were WIA. That's a total of just 55. What did the remaining 337 do for 11 hours? Protect the SAF VIPs who tagged along? Assuming that this number proved to be not enough, who made the decision to rely on this number? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Nearest Army Detachment
Much noise is being made on the fact that the nearest Philippine Army detachment was only 1 km. away from the battle area. But how big is this detachment? Normally, they will not exceed platoon strength. And this would be roughly about 30 men. What can 30 Army men do that 337 SAF men cannot?
For an operation of this magnitude, the ammo load of each SAF man should have been doubled ( about 600 to 700 rounds for 5.56 mm ammo). They should also have been issued at least 4 frags each. If this was not done, who made the call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
Firepower Not Enough
Skipping the issues of CAS and mortars (which we have already discussed), were recoilless rifles (both 106mm and 90 mm) deployed on the Marwan Raid? How about .50 BMG weapons (e.g. Browning M2s, Barrett M82A1s)? As I understand it, the MILF was able to deploy theirs. If this was not done, who made the call? The AFP? Sec. Deles? POTPHI?
The mission was a good one. Its ops plan was not. And its shortcomings were all too obvious to be missed by any professional military man who has been on the job for 20 years or more. The blame for this fiasco of a raid, therefore, rests solely with the PNP top brass who were directly involved in its planning and execution. As I understand it, the acting PNP Chief was not among them.
Sec. Deles was right in recommending to the President that the ceasefire agreement with the MILF should be respected. Ordering the Army to advance on the MILF positions would have been tantamount to the resumption of all-out war.
The POTPHI green light for this operation appears to have been given on the premise that it will be conducted in a very low-key manner. Unfortunately, there might be other forces at play here who wanted the exact opposite. A major conflagration in Mindanao will force Malacanang to deploy its most loyal units (which is usually the Marines) to the area of conflict. This will leave Malacanang naked for military destabilization.
A highly-remote conspiracy theory, you say? I don't think so. This was the exact blueprint used to oust Erap. But this time around, the incumbent POTPHI was clever enough to saw though the smokescreen. And (rightfully) refused to walk into the trap. But these people won't give up. Their next logical move would be to whip the on-going national mourning into a frenzy that could generate support for another military-supported Malacanang power grab. I will not be surprised if there will be a call for an EDSA IV.
Hopefully though, after the not-so-encouraging results of EDSA I, II & III, this time around, our people will be clever enough to realize that the real threat to our survival as a nation is not in Mindanao or in Malacanang.
It is out there in the West Philippine Sea...