No, I am not referring to the unending Senate inquiry into the Binays’ alleged corruption in Makati government affairs, as stage-managed by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes 4th and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.
I mean rather the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano incident that was conducted last February and March and led by Sen. Grace Poe as head of the Senate Committee on Public Order.
Both inquiries had their moments, but what has happened to the Mamasapano investigation, in my view as a longtime Congress watcher, is one of the most deflating and embarrassing spectacles in congressional history.
Some senators will always grandstand, but in the end the statesmen get separated from the political entrepreneurs.
From competent to ridiculous
The Mamasapano probe started with a bang, then it descended to cowardice and, finally, to travesty.
First, in getting the Senate to approve a separate probe of the Mamasapano incident, in spite of the widespread public clamor for an independent commission to conduct the inquiry, Poe showed deftness in grabbing public attention.
Second, in declaring that President Aquino is “ultimately responsible” for the tragedy that befell 44 SAF commandos, but without calling Aquino to testify, the senator showed boldness and political shrewdness.
Her exact words were: “The President is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission.”
Then Poe’s evident competence got lost in her ridiculous and exasperating announcement during a news conference on March 17 that her committee would be presenting to the nation only an executive summary of the panel’s findings, not a report from the committee.
Last June 18, she also announced that her committee will not present a report to the Senate. This was a complete shock to everyone who thought that at the end of the investigation, there would be a report that the Senate, the media and the public can peruse.
In announcing what evidently was a unilateral decision, Poe was haughty. She declared that she has no intention of reporting out her committee’s findings on the Mamasapano incident.
She said: “A report is about facts and findings. The Ombudsman acknowledged receipt of our recommendations. I will no longer present in plenary. The BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law] plenary discussion can tackle any remaining questions on Mamasapano.”
Reporters followed up with the senator by saying many relatives of the dead commandos persist in demanding justice five months after the incident. The senator had nothing to say to them.
Suprisingly, Senate President Franklin Drilon came to Poe’s rescue by saying gratuitously that the Mamasapano report is considered submitted before the plenary even if Poe has not officially reported it out.
“It’s submitted and if Sen. Grace would want to calendar it during the break for adoption, she can. But right now, it is already filed,” Drilon said. This is beneath the ridiculous.
But there are many, especially in the media, who believe that Poe’s refusal to write a report is her way of shielding the President.
Honoring the dead
Some people will say I am writing this because Grace Poe has become the frontrunner in preferential surveys, and that I am doing it at the behest of her rivals. That is nonsense.
I wrote this piece because the senator springing surprises on the Mamasapano probe will turn the much-heralded Senate committee inquiry into a travesty.
This dishonors the memory of the SAF dead. It is a direct slap against their families who clamor for answers and for justice.
If this travesty is not reversed, if we allow this bizarre closure of the Senate inquiry to stand, then what the Senate stands for comes to nothing, all the public money spent on the investigation goes to waste, and all the labors exerted by senators and resource persons were much ado over nothing.
Independent commission a better approach
We in The Manila Times take seriously the Mamasapano investigation becoming a travesty and a joke, because we were among those who lobbied hard for the appointment of an independent commission to investigate the massacre, in the same way that in the US, Congress created commissions to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City on 9/11.
The PNP inquiry into Mamasapano produced a thorough, unsparing and professional report that is unquestionably better than the non-report of Poe’s committee.
An independent commission would undoubtedly have reached firm conclusions, and enabled the nation to reach closure in this tragedy.
We lost our moral grip on Mamasapano because the inquiries failed to get to the whole truth. The probers were not courageous enough. The nation got distracted also by the big debate over the BBL.
There should be an uproar about the failure of the Senate to come up with a report on the Mamasapano incident. For this, Poe must shoulder a large part of the blame. But Drilon and the Poe committee members must also share blame for not insisting that Poe write a report and report it to the nation.
In sum, a report on Mamasapano must still be written. If Poe cannot do it, let other senators take up the task.
The 2016 elections and the possible candidacy of the senator for President cast a shadow over the inquiry, but not so big that the writing of the report should be avoided.
From a committee head who bravely declared that the Mamasapano incident was a massacre, not a misencounter, Poe became one who got distracted by political gossip and speculations.