THE Senate committee hearings on the Mamasapano tragedy took up many of our days for two weeks, which is not to say that all of the information we gathered was important. A lot of the questions were repetitive, the lines of questioning redundant.
Senators asked questions and didn’t listen for answers, or used their time to ask questions to merely make a point. Some sounded credible but didn’t really say much – not saying anything means not saying anything wrong after all. Other senators took the opportunity to give the greatest performance of their lives – or just the month – because what a waste of TV airtime to do otherwise.
One of course can imagine – one knows – that the more important parts of the Mamasapano tragedy’s story must have been revealed in those executive sessions that cannot be made public, if not in that meeting that the President had with chosen members of Congress a couple of days ago.
We know too that this is about party loyalty and next year’s elections, too. The perfect reminder of the latter was Senator Grace Poe who dropped every motherhood statement imaginable about truth and justice and peace as she adjourned the hearings. Smells a lot like 2016, doesn’t it?
And so after the days the Senate has spent with resource persons from the Cabinet, officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, a list seems apt to take stock of what these sessions have brought to light – in relation to Mamasapano and otherwise.
The painfully true
1. That it is acceptable for the President to be updated via SMS about military operations that have international terrorists as targets, which bring to the ground hundreds of Special Action Force police commandos, and which risk the lives of countless innocent civilians.
2. That the President, across the time that he was being informed about Oplan Exodus, did not ask that OIC PNP Chief Leonardo Espina, nor Chief of Staff of the AFP General Emmanuel Bautista be present in those meetings.
3. That the President, across the time that he was being informed about Oplan Exodus, did not decide to have Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, nor Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin present in those meetings.
4. That the President, even with knowledge that Oplan Exodus was to happen in territory that is close to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) territory, decided that he didn’t need to consult with the peace panel that had been negotiating for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
5. That the President, even with knowledge that this was going to happen in Mamasapano, very near MILF territory, did not think it important to inform his own Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles.
6. That the President, across the time that Oplan Exodus was being planned, thought it acceptable that he was speaking only to SAF Chief Getulio Napeñas and suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima.
7. That the President thought nothing wrong with speaking to a suspended police official about the official business of capturing a high-priority international terrorist in unfamiliar territory.
8. That the President, despite being in Zamboanga with the members of his Cabinet including his DILG and DND Secretaries while the Mamasapano clash was ongoing, did not think it important to inform them right away about what was happening just 500km away.
9. That the President thought nothing wrong with the fact that the only person he was speaking to about an ongoing military operation to capture an international terrorist was a suspended police official.
The side stories
10. That the defenders and allies of the President in the Senate will shamelessly echo the Palace about who is to blame for the Mamasapano tragedy. In this case it is SAF Chief Napeñas and suspended PNP Chief Purisima. Yes, it is that obvious.
11. That senators, namely Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito, actually think that fighting for building a mosque (in Greenhills) and working with Muslim local government officials (in Taguig) mean that they love our Muslim brothers and sisters.
12. That senators think nothing of being offensive or disrespectful. That includes Senate President Franklin Drilon who could not contain his impatience when MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal whispered a prayer before he began answering the senator’s questions.
13. That no matter that Senator Nancy Binay was actually the one who was able to bring about that question: “Which member of the Cabinet who was with the President in Zamboanga on January 25 told the President about what was going on in Mamasapano?” she would still be vilified on social media for, uh, being a Binay.
14. Good manners and right conduct seem to fly out the window in the name of … performing for the public as senator. Voices grow louder, smiles disappear, as they don’t get the answers they want or expect. One wonders why they ask questions at all.
15. That Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is the one public official who can speak to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago without fear or nerves, and respond to her questions correctly and properly – as per the expectations of the senator.
16. That in the senate Hearings, five minutes can feel like forever. Imagine what it was like for Purisima when he was being questioned by Senator Defensor-Santiago. She, who has memorized the law dictionary – that seems like an important piece of information.
17. Apparently our military operations are named like they happen in comic books. Because Operation Cyclops. Operation Smart Bomb. Operation Wolverine. Operation Exodus. Who knows why.
18. Senator Chiz Escudero can get married in the island of Balesin and have a wedding reception there, have another wedding reception in Manila, and yet another in Sorsogon, and still have enough time to be present at the hearings the following week. That has to be some super power. Or just private planes.
19. Senator Loren Legarda’s eyebrows don’t move anymore. And so she looks perennially surprised, or mataray, or both.
20. That too many of our male senators are dying their hair jet black – unbelievable dark shiny black hair, no matter aging faces. Not sure which is more bothersome: how fake and undignified it looks, or the thought that the senators of the land actually waste time sitting in a chair to get their hair dyed. There should be more important things to do, yes?