I owe this one to my son, who, after discovering that public affairs and politics can be as interesting and engaging as the superhero cinema he loves, has become a voracious reader of news and analysis, and an adept researcher on public affairs.
On learning that President Aquino has refused to honor or recognize the martyred SAF 44, and is adamantly against building a memorial to them, he exclaimed:
“How can our people accept this! President Aquino ordered the building of a memorial to the alleged victims of the Jabidah massacre, which never happened. And here he is now refusing the honors and remembrance due the slain SAF commandos in Mamasapano, whose deaths by massacre have been confirmed by photographs and autopsies to the last sordid detail.”
Then he supplied what proved to be the clincher for me in his argument that the SAF 44 deserve a memorial . He showed me how the Cambodians remember the millions of victims in the infamous killing fields of Pol Pot.
The Cambodian memorial shows how Cambodia is coming to terms with its painful past.
The images on the Internet website are so distressing – they include thousands of human skulls – they are painful to look at. I can understand why many tourists could not complete the full experience of immersion in the killing fields.
My son made his point quite powerfully; I literally rushed to write this column lest I forget to write it.
Jabidah is a hoax
How, if he is not sick in the head, does President Aquino justify the asymmetry (to use a currently fashionable word in government discourse) between his official actions/policies on Jabidah and Mamasapano?
Who is the spokesman, propagandist and speechwriter who will earn his/her living by trying to make the execrable excusable for the nation?
To dispose of the Jabidah business first, I will cite the work of my colleague Bobi Tiglao, who in a four-part series for the Manila Times last March destroyed, perhaps forever, the entire Jabidah narrative of the Aquino administration.
The titles of each part of the series speak for themselves:
Part One: “‘Jabidah’ was a big hoax”
(Times, March 22, 2015)
Part two: “Only Aquino was fooled by ‘Jabidah’ hoax”
(Times, March 25, 2015)
Part three: “Clearest indications that Jabidah was a hoax” (Times, March 27, 2015)
Part four; National Historical Commission: No ‘Jabidah’ (Times, March 29, 2015)
I will highlight part four here, because it reports the frenzied lobbying by peace adviser Teresita Deles and peace negotiator Miriam Ferrer to secure sanction from the historical commission for a memorial to Jabidah.
In 2013, the administration organized in Corregidor a commemoration of the “Jabidah massacre.” In his speech, President Aquino ordered the National Historical Commission (NHC) to officially acknowledge the purported atrocity, “to recognize it as part of our national narrative.” He led the groundbreaking rites on the island for what was supposed to be the commemorative site for Jabidah.
The NHC—by law the only government agency with the “authority to determine all factual matters relating to official Philippine history” — refused to obey Aquino. It did agree, however, to some kind of compromise.
It authorized a site in Corregidor as a “Mindanao Garden of Peace.” But the NHC refused to even put the word “Jabidah” on the marker in that “garden of peace.”
Mamasapano smolders like a nightmare
While Jabidah stinks in its fakery, Mamasapano smolders like an open wound and nightmare, demanding closure.
Whether the Mamasapano massacre happened is not in dispute. The documentation in words, pictures and video are exhaustive. I will wager my savings that no issue of the Manila Times since January 25, 2015, has failed to carry the name Mamasapano in its pages at least once. My own columns have delved into the subject multiple times.
Multiple official inquiries have established that a massacre or incident occurred on Sunday, January 25, 2015, in the municipality of Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
Very many pieces of evidence have established beyond doubt that 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force died in the incident, and at least eight others also died.
Testimony has established that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom fighters (BIFF) perpetrated the killings, and that they took away the equipment, gear and personal effects of the commandos.
To their lasting shame, Mesdames Deles and Ferrer took to blaming the SAF for what happened in Mamasapano.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, President Aquino has exerted much effort to cover up his accountability and possible liability for the incident. Administration officials have worked to defuse the charge that Aquino ordered forces to stand down and desist from effecting a rescue operation to save lives on the day of the incident.
And there are troubling questions about the impact of Mamasapano on the peace process and on the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
A culture is what it remembers, and what it knows
The contrasting treatment of Jabidah and Mamasapano by President Aquino betrays a streak of arrogance and even sadism that history will judge harshly, and will rankle for years with the families of the fallen, and within the ranks of the Philippine National Police.
Past and present officers of the PNP have said that Aquino cannot deal justly with the Mamasapano massacre because it has been traumatic for him and his government. They say\ curtly, it’s because Aquino knows he is to blame for what happened.
There is moral clarity to Mamasapano that no amount of public relations and lying can wipe away.
In his book, Second Drafts of History, the famous essayist Lance Morrow writes movingly about the importance of remembering and the dangers of forgetting in the affairs of men and nations.
He concluded the essay with this pregnant line: “A culture is what it remembers, and what it knows.”