TO resolve the tug-of- war over the projected reopening of the Senate’s Mamasapano inquiry, it is important to recall the history of the earlier inquiry and why it dismally failed in finding facts and reaching closure.
It is equally important to keep the new hearings focused on the questions and issues that were not probed and answered in the inquiry last year.
Finally, it is best for the nation not to be distracted by the confusion being deliberately sown by the administration to keep President Aquino’s accountability sealed.
Inquiry hijacked by two senators
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre of the martyred 44 PNP SAF (Special Action Force) commandos, there was wide public clamor for a full and independent inquiry into the incident. Public outrage was so deeply aroused, that there were demands for Congress to form an independent commission to investigate, similar to the commissions created in the United States to investigate the John F. Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 bombings. We in the Times took the position that this was the correct and constitutional way forward to bring closure to the tragedy.
To mollify the clamor, Congress proposed a joint inquiry by the House and the Senate, for which there was some consensus.
But suddenly, from out of the blue, two newly-elected senators – Sen. Grace Poe and Sen. Francis Escudero – with support from Senate President Franklin Drilon and Malacañang, hijacked the inquiry, by pressing for the immediate convening of a Senate inquiry to be led by their respective committees. Suddenly, the nation woke up to discover that an inquiry on the grave matter of national concern was to be led and directed by a neophyte senator absolutely bereft of any background in peace and security issues. Then, we the public saw the Senate finance committee, with Escudero calling the shots, take a major role in the inquiry–even though the Mamasapano massacre had nothing specially to do with the appropriation of public funds.
As things turned out, Poe and Escudero had their way with the hearings. They secretly cooked a deal with the leadership that, in exchange for their leading roles in the hearings, the inquiry would not press for President Aquino to testify.
The inquiry proceded in helter-skelter fashion, jumping from one witness to another, and one topic to another. Then suddenly, when the hearings were getting somewhere, Ms. Poe announced that she was adjourning the inquiry.
A committee report cooked by Poe and Escudero was officially prepared. But then surprisingly, it was not submitted to the Senate plenary for debate and approval as all such reports should be.
Cryptic finding: ultimately responsible
Instead of releasing the report to the media and the public, Ms. Poe presented the nation an executive summary. In that summary, she issued her cryptic finding that President Aquino is/was “ultimately responsible” for what happened in Mamasapano.
For this meaningless finding of ultimate responsibility, and her dogged refusal to demand/request President Aquino to testify, Ms. Poe was accused by many, including this paper, of turning the Senate inquiry into a travesty.
Poe is hustling us again
Now, with the Mamasapano inquiry slated to resume within a week, the nation is again being hustled by Ms. Poe into tapping her to call the shots in the reopened inquiry.
Without being given the assignment, she told the media that the reopening of the Mamasapano inquiry would not push through on Monday, January 25, the date that the Senate had earlier formally set.
She declared her opposition to the reopening of the inquiry, saying that all the questions had already been answered in the inquiry that she abruptly closed last year.
She then suddenly pre-empted the Senate in announcing that the Senate committee on public order, with her as chair, would reopen the inquiry. And then imperiously, she announced that she would move the start of the new hearings from January 25 to Jan. 27.
This is hustling and deception compounded many times over.
For her opposition to the reopening of the inquiry, for her dismal failures in the first inquiry, and for her subservience to Malacañang, Ms. Poe is the last senator who should be tapped to lead the new Mamasapano inquiry.
She may fantasize in her sleep that she is ready to be president of our republic. But she is absolutely not the one who can bring closure to the Mamasapano tragedy.