To make full reparations for his grievous error in spreading the falsehood about an alternative version or truth of the Mamasapano incident/massacre , and to atone for casting doubt on the sacrifice and heroism of the SAF commandos, I submit that President Aquino should perform two things publicly before the nation.
First, BS Aquino should apologize to the families of the fallen SAF44, and to the officers and men of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Second, he should make a full confession and accounting of (1) his real role in planning and authorizing Oplan Exodus, and (2) his failure to order rescue operations by the military to save the lives of the beleaguered commandos, at a time when he was physically in Zamboanga City and just minutes away by helicopter from the scene of the massacre.
An apology and a confession are imperative if President Aquino is to recover the respect and goodwill of the SAF44’s families, and the loyalty and respect of the members of the SAF-PNP.
They are essential for the nation to surmount this awful tragedy.
Apology for presidential wrongs
First and foremost, President Aquino should immediately offer, without reservation or hesitation, his sincere apologies for traducing the honor of the SAF44 and questioning their role and heroism in the Mamasapano incident last January 25.
Only an apology can wipe away (1) the insult and injury he inflicted on the fallen 44 and their elite unit, (2) the shame he inflicted on himself and his office by his gratuitous spinning of a tall tale about an alternative version of the Mamasapano incident, and (3) the confusion and mayhem from the MILF that he inspired with his ill-considered remarks.
His current and pathetic effort to walk back his alternative truth fiasco is plainly insufficient reparation for the harm and distress he caused. Saying now that the alternative version is baseless is inadequate. Attesting that the terrorist Marwan was in fact killed by the SAF commandos does not restore things to normality. It does not undo the ignoble slur against the memory of the Fallen 44.
A confession and accounting
As a second act of reparation, President Aquino should make a public confession and accounting of his role and shortcomings in this tragic affair. The act of telling all that he knows will help the process of closure and underscore his acceptance of his responsibility for the tragedy.
The first matter for confession is his role in planning, organizing and authorizing the SAF operation. He should tell all that he knows about how Exodus came about, how he attended and hosted meetings on Exodus, and why he installed on top of the operation a PNP commander (former PNP chief Alan Purisima) who was under suspension from his job. And he must explain why he excluded from the operation the Secretary of Interior and Local Government and the incumbent chief of the PNP, thus taking out the two highest officials of the PNP.
The second matter for clearing of accounts is why he did not order the military to conduct a rescue operation to save the lives of the beleaguered SAF commandos. Why, |considering that the defense and interior secretaries, and responsible military generals were already with him in Zamboanga City that fateful day, did he not order these personages to act and issue orders for a rescue operation.
Aquino should confirm or belie the story disclosed by an insider that when military officials were ready and eager to order a rescue operation, the commander-in-chief instead issued the order to “Stand down.” These two words have stuck in the minds of our people, signifying the president’s insensitivity to the life-and-death emergency, and the final blow to the hopes for survival of the SAF commandos.
To say that Aquino must apologize is to say that the President should perform, as in our Christian faith, an act of contrition and remorse. He has to realize that what he did and what he said was wrong and injurious, and that he is prepared to make amends. He must acknowledge that his mistake emboldened others, especially the MILF and Mohagher Iqbal, to spread and publicize the outrageous lie that the SAF commandos did not kill Marwan.
Historically, making reparations has been a traditional act of monarchs and heads of state toward those that they or their country have wronged. The prime ministers and the Japanese emperor have apologized and offered reparations to the victims of World War II, including the Philippines. Successive chancellors of Germany have given apologies and reparations for the cruelties inflicted by Hitler and the Nazis. Even the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, notably Saint Pope John Paul II, made a determined effort to apologize to victims of injustices and sins of omission by members of the Church.
Lifting the weight of the past
Offering apologies has been anathema to President Aquino in all his years in the presidency, as he stubbornly refused to apologize to the victims of clear errors of his administration like the victims of the Luneta hostagetaking, the victims of neglect and governmental incompetence in typhoon Yolanda, and the victims of the Mamasapano massacre. Making an apology is against the grain of his character and self-regard.
But BS Aquino is not just the master of his fate, and captain of his soul. He is also the president of 100 million Filipinos.
He needs to learn the value of apology in the affairs of state and in the leadership of nations.
What is the point of making reparations and offering an apology and confession?
The essayist Lance Morrrow summed it up this way in writing on Pope John Paul II’s apology for the historical sins of the Catholic Church. He wrote, “[the point]is to set in motion the dynamic of apology and forgiveness and transcendence, a powerful and liberating force. Only apology and forgiveness – acts of moral clarification and, incidentally, of leadership—can lift the weight of the past.”
Lift then, Mr. President, the weight of Mamasapano on your shoulders and the office of the presidency. Let your country and your people move on.