“Over 60 Filipinos died and witnesses also saw the body of an American at the covert U.S.-designed Mamasapano operation one year ago, yet the U.S. has still not come clean about the extent of its role in the carnage. We are filing this Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI because the Filipino and American people have the right to know the full truth about this botched mission,” stated BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin.
The U.S.-funded and orchestrated anti-terrorism operation “Operation Exodus” targeting alleged terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir aka “Marwan” occurred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in the Philippines on January 25, 2015, sending commandos of the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) into territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), despite a ceasefire agreement and ongoing peace negotiations between the MILF and Philippine government at the time. The ensuing 12-hour battle resulted in the killing of seven civilians, 44 SAF forces, and 22 members of the MILF and BIFF. Involvement of multiple U.S. agencies including the FBI became clear as both Philippine government and civilian organizations investigated the operation. Official reports by the Philippine Bureau of Investigation and Senate cited the presence of six Americans at the Tactical Command Post for the mission, including an American who ordered a Philippine Major General to fire artillery. Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napenas admitted under sworn testimony that the tissue sample of alleged terrorist target Marwan was immediately brought by the SAF to American FBI agents waiting in General Santos City, bypassing PNP Headquarters or any other Philippine agency. Witnesses cited by the Philippine media also reported seeing among the dead the body of a white American male, who is believed to have been involved in the operation even though the Philippine Constitution prohibits the participation of foreign troops in military operations on Philippine soil. In November 2015, participants in BAYAN-USA’s Peace Mission went to Mamasapano, where they spoke with widows of MILF fighters who shared accounts of white soldiers being sighted in the encounter, further pointing to U.S. military involvement.
BAYAN-USA’s FOIA request asks for documentation pertaining to the FBI’s involvement in Operation Exodus, including:
- internal or inter-agency correspondence between David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, and the PNP Director General Alan Purisima, SAF commander Director Getulio Napenas, or other Philippine authorities, pertaining to Marwan’s apprehension through the execution of Operation Plan Exodus;
- manuals or guidelines used by agents of the U.S. in training PNP SAF to execute Operation Plan Exodus, or other similar operations with the aim of apprehending Marwan;
- responses to requests from the Philippine government to assist in the evacuation of the dead and wounded in the aftermath of Operation Plan Exodus;
- results of the evidentiary analysis done by the FBI Laboratory indicating the positive DNA identification of Marwan; and
- provision of any monetary award to the PNP SAF, or other Philippine authorities in exchange for Marwan’s positive DNA identification, such as the $5 million reward that the U.S. State Department offered for Marwan’s arrest.
“The U.S. has dodged accountability for the Mamasapano carnage and countless more military-related crimes against the Filipino people, but Obama and Aquino continue to push for the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. It is senseless to give the U.S. military increased access to Philippine territory for its war games, when it won’t even admit any wrongdoing in an American operation that resulted in the killing of so many people,” said Ellorin.
“When government agencies like the FBI refuse to willingly be transparent about their actions, the public has the responsibility to use FOIA requests and all the tools at our disposal to hold government to account,” said BAYAN-USA Legal Desk member Jackelyn Mariano. “In addition to requesting information from the FBI, BAYAN-USA plans to file FOIA requests with other agencies of the U.S. government, including the Navy and the Army, to exercise our right to know the full truth about the U.S. role in Mamasapano,” continued Mariano.
“Operation Exodus at Mamasapano clearly shows how the U.S. is carrying out its ‘War on Terror’ with no regard for the lives of Filipinos, whether combatants or civilians. It carries out its war on terror without regard for the national sovereignty of the countries where the alleged terrorists are supposedly hiding. In many countries, the U.S. employs drones to target so-called terrorists, often ending up killing civilians. We demand an investigation into the U.S. role in Operation Exodus and for the termination of agreements like the EDCA which embolden the U.S. to carry out violent, covert operations with impunity. We demand accountability for the lives lost and the violation of Philippine sovereignty,” ended Ellorin.
BAYAN USA will also send additional FOIA requests to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Pacific Command regarding the Mamasapano Incident to maximize the opportunity to unearth information about U.S. intervention in the Philippines.