President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino and his allies would like the Filipino people to move on from the January 25 massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano. In particular, Senator Franklin Drilon doesn’t think “there is anything more to explain”. Senator Chiz Escudero for his part says he doesn’t think the President is liable for the deaths of the SAFs. It is worth mentioning that BS Aquino was the best man in Escudero’s recent nuptials to actress Heart Evangelista. Meanwhile, Drilon has been a staunch Aquino supporter dating back to the Cory days.
It’s not surprising they would say that. There’s nothing they would rather see more than Filipinos moving on to the usual mundane issues because BS Aquino’s popularity is suffering from a barrage of criticism no matter what he does to try and redeem himself from what the public perceives as whitewashing and betrayal of public trust regarding the Mamasapano clash.
It’s actually quite hypocritical of President BS Aquino and his allies to expect the public to get over it considering Aquino ascended to power by blaming previous presidents. In fact, he takes every opportunity to bore the public with narrations of his father’s death and how his family “suffered” under the Martial Law years every chance he gets.
Calls for BS Aquino’s resignation or ouster are steadily growing. What was supposed to be a secret operation — so secret that even Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas was not aware of it — has taken on a new life. It is something that the Malacanang propaganda machine cannot control anymore. Their attempt to distract the public with the resumption of Senate hearings against Vice President Jejomar Binay’s allegedly overpriced building hasn’t worked to divert people’s attention away from the issue and neither did the arrest of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and his forced appearance in the Senate hearings make a difference to the growing public outrage. It is worth mentioning that despite the number of months the Senate has devoted to the investigation against the Binays, the senators from the Opposition are not ready to say, “there is nothing more to explain”. But I digress…
BS Aquino and his allies have been trying to downplay what happened between the SAF and the MILF at Mamasapano since Day One. The public has heard some of the lamest excuses from not only those involved in the operation, but also from BS Aquino’s cabinet members who try to save the President from any liability during the tragic event. Here are some of them:
1. Simply a misencounter
After news broke out about the deaths of the 44 SAFs, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas quickly described what had happened as a “misencounter”. Political pundits and netizens alike were quick to look up the meaning of the word but found to their dismay that the word doesn’t exist in the English vocabulary. That set off the alarm bells to what the public thinks was the initial whitewashing. For someone who claims to not have known about the operation, Roxas didn’t have a basis for saying it was simply a “misencounter”.
Frankly, for someone who was kept out of the loop of a major operation, Roxas is acting strangely forgiving and seems to have moved on very quickly. Some expected him to resign from his post as a statement of indignation. Perhaps it was a matter between “friends” after all and nothing that an endorsement from BS Aquino as the Liberal Party’s candidate for the Presidential Election in 2016 cannot fix. So it seems Roxas was happy enough to treat it as water under the bridge.
2. It was merely an “advice” not an “order”.
Former PNP Chief Alan Purisima was the next one to engage in word play. Despite confirming through a text message to sacked PNP-SAF head Director Getulio Napeñas Jr that the “plan is a go on the timeline, Jan. 23 to 26″, he denies giving the order for the operation to arrest international bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino protégé Abdul Basit Usman insisting that what he gave was just an “advice”.
Whoever gave him the advice to use that advice defense probably thought everyone would be stupid enough to buy it. The public will have to give him credit for trying though. The operation was supposed to be his ticket to redemption after his suspension for corruption charges. Had the operation been 100 percent successful with zero casualties from the government troops, he would have been proud to say he was in charge of the operation and that he had ordered the go ahead. It is hard to take credit when things turn out bad.
3. The chain of command does not apply to the Philippine National Police.
Moving on from word play, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima tried confusing the public with jargon. Her move left some people speechless. How can any organization, whether private or public, military or civilian function without following a chain of command? If we follow De Lima’s logic, it’s a miracle lower ranking police officers haven’t conducted their own covert operation considering they do not have to answer to anyone at the top. This attempt to rescue BS Aquino from any liability for the deaths of the 44 SAF troopers is so lame. It ranks right up there with the classic “my dog ate my homework” excuse.
De Lima should resign from her post for shamelessly being ignorant of EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 226 that states:
SECTION 1. Neglect of Duty Under the Doctrine of “Command Responsibility”. Any government official or supervisor, or officer of the Philippine National Police or that of any other law enforcement agency shall be held accountable for “Neglect of Duty” under the doctrine of “command responsibility” if he has knowledge that a crime or offense shall be committed, is being committed, or has been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his area of responsibility and, despite such knowledge, he did not take preventive or corrective action either before, during, or immediately after its commission.
I would have recommended her to be sacked for deliberate cover-up but she was trying to protect the very person who could fire her.
4. It was self-defence.
That was the excuse chairman of the peace-negotiating panel of the MILF, Mohagher Iqbal used to justify the execution style killing of the SAF. 27 of the 44 fallen troopers were shot in the head at close range with one commando shot 14 times. If that is their style of “self-defence”, I am curious to know how they kill their enemies during an “official” combat. ISIS-style killing comes to mind.
Iqbal has done well in his efforts to humanize the animal-like behavior of the MILF rebel forces. He even attracted kudos from a bleeding heart columnist who praised him for being “a picture of wisdom, restraint, dignity and depth” during the Senate hearings. It’s quite funny to read such compliments from an academic like Randy David even when there was no assurance from Iqbal that they will surrender the killers to the Philippine government so they can face the justice system. One can’t help but question if people like David has the country’s best interest at heart.
To further fuel the speculation that the MILF is just Malaysia’s front in the latter’s quest to colonize Mindanao, Iqbal confirmed that the MILF report on the Mamasapano clash will not be given directly to the Philippine government. He said it would have to pass through Malaysia first since they are the third party facilitator in the peace negotiations. His statement is so reassuring that the Filipino people will get the unedited version after Malaysia sifts through the report. Not.
5. SAF should be held accountable.
That was the recommendation of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles. According to her, the PNP-SAF should be accountable for the massacre of the 44 SAF troopers for storming the rebel lair. She was sticking by the notion that they should have coordinated the operation using the “ceasefire mechanism”. For an academic, Deles seems clueless. Either that or she is deliberately ignoring the fact that BS Aquino knew about the operation but didn’t bother to tell her. If she wants to blame it on someone just to protect the MILF from liability and save the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, she should blame BS Aquino for authorizing the Mamasapano operation and putting a suspended PNP Chief in charge of it.
The people are getting confused over why a government official like Deles would even say government troops should not have gone into certain areas of Mindanao to conduct an official operation. In the words of Iqbal, the MILF will remain a revolutionary organization unless the BBL is implemented.
6. I was fed lies.
The ever-changing statements from BS Aquino came down to a simple “I was fed lies”. After his recent meeting with some lawmakers, the President managed to convince them that he was given inaccurate information during the Mamasapano clash and that his order to coordinate the operation to get Marwan with the military was “disregarded”. That is what you call a convenient excuse. We just have to ask: how come BS Aquino never said these things during his press conferences?
If it is true that the President was fed lies or given inaccurate information by then suspended PNP Chief Purisima, who was his first point of contact and who was overseeing the operation, and why didn’t he fire that person immediately? BS Aquino was even sad to accept Purisima’s resignation after the public uproar. No, BS Aquino’s excuse just doesn’t make any sense.
Recall the first time he addressed the nation about the Mamasapano clash, he said to a reporter, he didn’t think he was ever asked the question, “Sir, can we have the go-signal?” All the while his buddy Purisima met with him weeks prior to the operation and was updating him about the Mamasapano clash as early as 5 a.m.
Now BS Aquino would like us all to believe that had Purisima given him accurate information, he would have done everything to save the lives of the fallen SAFs. In this particular case, BS is indeed short for bullshit. The public should not move on from this issue until President BS Aquino owns up and tells the truth.
[Article thumbnail photo courtesy Inquirer.net.]