It turns out President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself ordered* the operation that killed international terrorist Zulkifli “Marwan” Hir January 25, but at the brutal cost of a massacre launched by the rebels against the deployed 44 Special Action Force commandos.
Worse, informed of the tragedy unfolding in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, Aquino appears to have panicked and frozen, and found no wit to command his troops to respond and reinforce the trapped police forces while he was touring Zamboanga City that day.
This isn’t haka-haka, using that that vivid Filipino term, but the only conclusion one can arrive at given Aquino’s own revelation, and his activities on that fateful day as are now publicly known.
In his speech on the evening of Jan 31 before SAF troopers —yes, where the sulking commandos gave him the silent treatment—(http://rtvm.gov.ph/main/?p=27830) he said:
“Maaga pa lang sinabihan na ako noong ano ang naging resulta yung kay Marwan, tapos habang sinisiyasat namin yung pagbobomba sa Zamboanga, dumarating yung mga report. (“Early that morning I was already told about the results of the Marwan operation, and while we were inspecting the site of (a recent) Zamboanga bombing, the reports (from Mamasapano) were coming in.” “Marwan” was the wanted Malaysian terrorist target of the SAF operation.)
Aquino was referring to his unscheduled visit to Zamboanga City on Jan 25, purportedly to commiserate with the victims of a car bomb blast that took place two days before.
There have been claims, though, that Aquino was in Zamboanga as part of a script, so that he could fly immediately to Cotabato City to congratulate the SAF commandos after their raid, or even to see for himself Marwan’s corpse. The fact that it was the first time that Aquino missed visiting with his sisters the grave of their mother on her birthday that day, bolsters that claim.
The big question is while the SAF troops were pinned down, frantically asking for succor, what did Aquino do?
Nothing. Aquino himself could not even claim any action he took when the SAF operation was unraveling.
Malacanang’s Philippine Information Agency’s (PIA) report on Aquino’s stay in Zamboanga City does not show any interruption to his hectic schedule after his arrival at 10:30 a.m.
“Upon arriving in Zamboanga City, he immediately met with Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, Congressman Celso Lobregat, Congresswomen Lilia Nuño and other local officials at the EAAB VIP lounge,” according to the PIA report. “The President was briefed on the recent security situation since Friday’s blast that killed two people and wounded 52 others.”
“After an approximately three-hour briefing, the President and his contingent proceeded to the blast site in front of the Guiwan terminal, where he personally inspected the devastated Fantasy bar, as well as the damages to property within the proximity. He stayed at the blast site for about fifteen minutes before proceeding to the Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital where some blast victims were recuperating:”
“President Aquino also visited the Western Mindanao Medical Center, Zamboanga Doctors’ Hospital Ciudad Medical Zamboanga and the Zamboanga City Medical Center, where other patients were confined. Some are under intensive care.”
“The President dropped by La Merced Funeral Homes, where the bodies of the two fatalities Reynaldo Tan and Dennis Valiente lay in state. He promised the victims that the case will be resolved immediately and that justice will be served to the perpetrators.”
The SAF firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front started, by all accounts, not later than 5 a.m., and the group of the fallen 44 was already pinned down.
Aquino had already been informed of the situation in the early morning of that day, as he himself reported. Yet, he still proceeded to Zamboanga.
He knew even before he left Manila about the SAF’s operations, and throughout the morning, as he himself said, he was receiving “reports,” which obviously included the SAF troopers being trapped.
There is no report at all that he interrupted his schedule to confer with his officials on the Mamasapano crisis.
Any other competent president would have cancelled his or her itinerary – and I’ve seen this done by Presidents Ramos, Estrada, and Macapagal-Arroyo – to immediately establish a crisis center to address a grave situation such as this that was bound to cost lives.
Did Aquino have that psychological affliction of completely denying an unpleasant reality?
Did he panic that he froze, and chose to put out of his mind what was happening in Mamasapano by getting himself too busy to bother while in Zamboanga City?
If he did try to help the SAF commandos by calling for an emergency conference, I’m sure the very talkative social welfare chief Corazon Soliman, who was with him in Zamboanga, would have had so many interviews with the media with tears in her eyes, relating how her boss heroically acted to try to save the SAF commandos. Soliman’s silence only means that she has also lost all moral underpinnings in her subservience to Aquino.
That Aquino was paralyzed—or worse, that he didn’t care about the SAF commandos—is shown by the fact that with him in Zamboanga was Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and even AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang.
These three officials are those who could have assisted Aquino in assessing the situation in Mamasapano and executing his orders to save the SAF troops.
Did they even take a 15-minute break during a sumptuous coconut-lobster lunch in Zamboanga to talk about the ongoing massacre at Mamasapano? No.
If they didn’t brief Aquino —and I’m quite sure they were already informed of the events unfolding in Mamasapano while in Zamboanga—they should be immediately suspended, and their liability established after a formal, objective inquiry. How could these people in charge, one way or another, of our police and military not have briefed the President about a massacre of troops happening, or about to happen?
AFP Chief Catapang very well knew how important the SAF operation was to Aquino as it was the President himself, as he disclosed in an interview with ANC, who explained to him in November 2014 what was then called Operation Wolverine, which was intended to capture or terminate Marwan. That means the President himself ordered the operation. Yet even while at Aquino’s side touring Zamboanga, he didn’t impress on the President the debacle developing in Mamasapano.
Ten days after the incident, Catapang submitted an AFP report blaming the massacre of the SAF troopers on its head police director, Getulio Napeñas.
Did his officials ask him if he informed Aquino when he was with him in Zamboanga that the SAF troopers were in big trouble?
The first person the many committees that would investigate this national tragedy should call is Aquino himself. How can we have a President who orders a risky operation by commandos, and when it ran aground, in effect, just abandons them?
*(When asked whether he gave the go-signal for the Mamasapano operation, Aquino in his Jan 28 short press conference said: “Sir, can we proceed with the mission?” I don’t think I was ever asked that question. In the same token, parang it’s a rhetorical question, ‘di ba? ‘Yung ‘pwede ho ba naming hulihin itong pinapahuli ng korte?’ Pwede ko bang sagutin na ‘hindi’?”)
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao