Last of two parts
As seen in the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano massacre, President Aquino’s allies are making no small effort to absolve him of blame and accountability for the debacle.
Take Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th. The amnestied mutineer pointedly asked two army generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines if the Commander-in-Chief ordered them to desist from sending reinforcements to save the PNP Special Action Force units attacked by MILF and BIFF rebels. Neither got such instructions.
So case closed on the President’s rumored order not to reinforce the SAF? Not so fast. Trillanes did not bother asking the two officials whom Aquino would have called to give military orders: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr.
Asked why he did not send soldiers notwithstanding the peace process, since government troops were already in mortal danger, Gen. Catapang said: “Ang order po sa kanila [the order to the troops]is to extricate the beleaguered forces, but not to engage the MILF, inasmuch as we have a peace process …”
To which the obvious question has to be: Who gave that extricate-only order, which cost the lives of 44 police commandos? Did Aquino issue a command or adopt a policy that our forces desist from hostilities with the MILF even if our men are being decimated?
Mr. President, these questions must be answered pronto, so that both military and police know what armed assistance they can expect when attacked by MILF rebels.
And if it’s not too impertinent to ask, what exactly did you do all the time you were monitoring the SAF mission from the US military drone control facility in Zamboanga?
At the very least, the SAF and the families of the fallen men deserve to know this.
Covering up Aquino’s moves
Unless these burning questions are honestly answered, the multiple Mamasapano investigations being mounted or mooted would miss one crucial truth that needs to be uncovered about the bloodiest day of Philippine law enforcement: What did Aquino do?
Covering this up would undermine accountability and erode loyalty, respect, confidence and goodwill toward the President, especially among the troops. Just ask any policeman or soldier if he or she wants to know what Aquino did during the SAF mission, and what he or she would feel if those actions are concealed.
And just as religious, civil society, opposition, academe, media, and other key sectors demanded in 2005 for then President Gloria Arroyo to come clean on her wiretapped conversations with an election commissioner, so will Aquino face mounting calls to tell the truth about his actuations during the Mamasapano battle.
So far, Aquino is keeping mum, and his political and media allies are not pressing him to talk. But he will have to, if and when families of the fallen 44 start asking.
Thus, in the coming month or so, the President may tell what he did, now hidden presumably because it is embarrassing or enraging. Or he would ignore calls for the truth or give truncated versions of it, further escalating public distrust and anger.
Meanwhile, as noted in the first part, other crises will pressure the President, including possible terrorist reprisals for the killing of Malaysian bomber Marwan. Not to mention a planned People Power movement to unseat Aquino, with religious, political, civil society, professional, academe, and other sectoral elements.
To go or not to go
Amid troubles and threats, Aquino and his backers may well tough it out. Predicts a doctor highly experienced in uprisings: “Crows will turn white before PNoy resigns. He will either suffer a mental breakdown, go on till elections and hope to rig them, or attempt a Palace-directed and Palace-benefiting coup.”
Alternatively, if Aquino becomes increasingly unable to cope, his camp’s Samar faction, who are on good terms with Vice-President Jejomar Binay, may urge him to let the VP take over. They may argue that Binay, a longtime Aquino family friend, could protect him. And the United States, grateful for Aquino’s support for its security and geopolitical initiatives in Asia, could eventually give him a haven in America.
A third scenario is a military-police takeover amid frustration over a Mamasapano cover-up and Aquino’s crisis mismanagement. The AFP and PNP would also be unhappy, if not infuriated, if the administration pushed through a Bangsamoro law and transition which compromise national sovereignty and security.
Such a takeover could institute electoral, governance and social justice reforms, such as those advocated by the National Transformation Council. The NTC includes leading spiritual and moral figures, who would lend legitimacy and purpose to extra-constitutional regime change.
Which of these scenarios would the endgame follow? Maybe all of the above.
Egged on by allies fearful of Binay, especially the Balay faction of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Aquino may be convinced that he can handily deal with demonstrators, rebels and mutineers, plus traffic, brownouts and typhoons.
But mounting crises could push him to breaking point. Then there could be a Palace-instigated coup, which installs a junta of Aquino allies. Or the Samar group brings in Binay to take over and protect Aquino.
But reformist forces, including AFP and PNP factions, would not support a new regime that blocks needed measures, particularly the total revamp of election bodies and systems. If the post-Aquino leadership would simply take power without instituting real change, there could still be a reformist coup.
What should patriotic Filipinos do? We’ll talk about that next week.
(The first part was published on Tuesday.)