Did Aquino order ‘Stand Down’?

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So it has come down to this, as it has always been and to which it will keep coming back. Whatever the twists and turns of headlines and hearings, allegations and argumentations, disinformation and denials, insinuations and investigations, scapegoats and sycophants, the question on every Filipino’s mind, especially the grieving and angry families and comrades-in-arms of the Fallen 44 police commandos, remains:

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Did President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the Commander-in-Chief at the apex of the military and police chains of command, order government forces to “stand down” or desist from mounting attacks to rescue beleaguered and eventually overrun Philippine National Police Special Action Force units, leading to the massacre of 44 PNP-SAF troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25?

This newspaper reported on February 5 that President Aquino did hold back reinforcements, citing an unnamed insider who reportedly witnessed events in the US drone control facility in Zamboanga. Fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao cited resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima’s inexplicably interrupted transcript of texts with Aquino — missing eight hours from mid-morning to evening — as hiding the stand-down order.

Weeks ago Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino had allowed the PLDT subsidiary to give the Senate committee probing Mamasapano the “transcriptions of SMS conversations between him and General Purisima in the early hours of January 25, 2015.” But she said nothing about messages later in the day.

Smart said it has a log of calls and texts, which indicates time but not content of communications. It should be, well, smart enough to release the information before sectors demanding truth whip up a boycott of its mobile services to get the log out.

Time for a signature campaign
Still, just in case certain parties need more motivation to reveal the truth about the Commander-in-Chief’s reported command, a signature campaign may be in order. The public petition can be signed in places of worship, in schools, on the street, online, and other public spaces.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the National Movement for Free Elections, the Association of Major Religious Superiors, student councils, and other citizens groups can start the campaign with a joint full-page advertisement urging:

• President Aquino, Secretaries Voltaire Gazmin and Mar Roxas, Armed Forces Chief General Gregorio Catapang, PNP Officer-in-Charge Leonardo Espina, resigned PNP Chief Purisima, relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas, and the commanders of military forces near Mamasapano on January 25 to state under oath if they personally know of any orders given by the Commander-in-Chief stopping forces from taking armed action in support of the PNP-SAF units under attack.

• Smart Communications to release to both Congress and media the log of calls and texts between Aquino and Purisima on the entire 24 hours of January 25.

• Aquino and Purisima to provide transcripts of all texts yet undisclosed, based on the Smart log to be provided, and to state under oath what instructions, information, and other statements were made relating to the Mamasapano incident during their calls.

Won’t these demanded disclosures violate the privacy of private communications? No, messages regarding government actions like the Mamasapano operation are not private. They are official acts for which public servants are accountable, and which the people have a right to know under the Constitution, subject to national security, executive privilege, and other restrictions set by law.

Would disclosure compromise security? In fact, it is hiding the messages that now hurts security. If Aquino gave such orders, then all this recrimination between military and police top brass would end, since General Catapang and the rest of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were just following presidential orders when they desisted in assisting the SAF. Right now, AFP and PNP ties are strained by all the finger-pointing.

And if he did sacrifice the SAF for the peace process with the MILF, as many reports allege, our soldiers and police deserve to know that. Then future operations can totally preclude any possibility of encounters with the Front, since it is the Commander-in-Chief’s policy not to engage the MILF, even to save the lives of our fighting men, to preserve the Bangsamoro agreement.

Let the nation know
Okay, so disclosing the Aquino-Purisima SMS exchange on January 25 would not violate their privacy, and would even advance national security. What about executive privilege and the right against self-incrimination?

Executive privilege applies to the President and his communications with the Cabinet as well as the AFP and PNP Chiefs. It is accorded the highest organs of government, including the Senate and the House of Representatives in executive session, and the Supreme Court during its deliberations.

Under this principle, those top-level discussions may not be disclosed without permission from entities concerned, so they can have free and unbridled sharing of views and knowledge in shaping high-level state policies and decisions, and to safeguard the independence of co-equal branches of government.

However, the privilege does not apply to Aquino’s exchange with Purisima because the latter was suspended from all official duties on January 25. So disclosing their communication would not violate executive privilege.

As for self-incrimination, it too does not apply, since giving a stand-down order is not a criminal act. It is a legitimate exercise of presidential policy and decision making. It may be faulty, unpopular and heartless, but it is not unlawful or illegal. Disclosing information that proves Aquino ordered troops to desist from saving the SAF so that peace with Muslim rebels would be obtained, does not incriminate him.

So, please, Mr. President, tell the truth, and set all of us — discordant generals, debating lawmakers, disturbed citizens, 44 distressed families, and yourself — free. That’s Daang Matuwid.

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11 Comments

  1. I live out of the country and pinoy newspapers are just on the attack on the incompetent president of our country. I guess it is the consensus of many that he started his reign running after people who he considered enemy of his family. He is psychotic child who happens to be our president who became president just because his father was murdered many years ago, just like his mother who rode into the popularity of that sad event. Both mother and son are incompetent presidents. Time for us to vote someone with a good record of governance, one who does not have the mind of a child, and one who is not afraid to fight for what is right.
    BUT FIRST GET RID OF THE PCOS MACHINES WHICH DO NOT COUNT OUR VOTES CORRECTLY AND MAKE THE CORRUPT PEOPLE WIN.

  2. Muriel Magtanggol on

    Tignan natin kung saan kukuha ng kapal ng mukha yan para magsinungaling pa o humanap ng palusot. Hindi na kinilabutang magkunwari na tumatahak sa matuwid na daang pinakabaluktot at lubak lubak! Bumangon sana sa libingan ang mga magulang niya, kasama ng mga minassacre sa Mamasapanosa pag nagsinungaling pa siya!

  3. Army reinforcement came i believe late in the afternoon WHEN THE 44 COMMANDOS WERE ALL DEAD and being led by 2nd Lt. and one group by a Sgt. and not even part of the 6th ID. Now who senT this Army groups.

  4. I hope the people listen & react accordingly. We need to get to the truth of things. Those in governments are great at finding ways to hide things. Get the people to sign petitions for smart to say exactly how many texts were sent between purisima & pnoy & at what times & then if it differs from what purisima said & what he showed us then He needs to be charged with something, i dont know what but something as he is helping to coiver this up. I hope after pnoy leaves power this isnt forgotten & people keep on top of it & then he could be held accountable for any wrong doings. even if he hasnt done anything wrong if he has lied the people need to know.

  5. Vicente Penetrante on

    You may have forgotten because some reps wanted it stricken off the record: Ground Commander Mangahis daring Col. Del Rosario, “Man up, Sir!” after hearing peace- negotiation with the MILF being talked about on the phone.

  6. Just go back to the first interviews with General Catapang, he basically in a sarcastic manner claimed that the peace process prevented them from sending the AFP to help the SAF commandos.

    Then they gave the “gold cross” to the AFP Lt. who led the extrication of deceased
    commandos?

  7. We know how the police were surrounded, attacked and murdered. We know there was no response to reinforce them or to go after the killers. That could only have happened if someone gave a stand down order. The problem we have is that Aquino will not reveal what was said to whom and when it was said. That is a coverup by dishonest people.

  8. Anima A. Agrava on

    Thanks for writing incisive and complete summaries of the state of our country in the different sectors.
    Your column the other day explaining why the Smartmatic-PCOS machines control of our elections is a great contribution to the correct assessment of our ills.
    Unfortunately some low-level mnds among your readers disagreed and said fighting corruption was the most pressing and important problem. Their comments serve the purposes of the Aquino administration who love Smartmatic-PCOS machine control of our elections because it will perpetuate them in power forever.

    Your paper has commendably called on the citizenry to form a People Power Movement OCCUPY COMELEC and ensure that the commissioners hear and obey the voice of the people.

  9. P.Akialamiro on

    The term “daang matuwid” which is supposed to be a ‘guide’ has proven to be “daang panlilinlang”. It is never used to be an end, but proved to be a vindictive ‘battlecry’ applied to erring oppositionists.

  10. Alejo Rosete on

    I want to sign the SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN.
    How we are Filipinos in America.
    Tel us how?

  11. Mr. Saludo, It is beyond me to figure out why this issue continues to fester and nag the truth seekers. I have already written before that I heard T. Deles admit on the 1st day of the Senate investigation that she was the one who whispered to Pnoy to give the STAND DOWN order or else the peace talks might be imperiled. All that has to be done is to replay the video tape of the senate hearing. I am sure that part is still there unless it is ordered deleted for fear of future reference to it in the midst of the consequent denials..