The search for an official scapegoat for the January 25 massacre of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force commandos by Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao formally ended in Malacañang on Monday, when President B. S. Aquino 3rd publicly blamed everything on former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas, the “ground commander”of Oplan Exodus whose mission was to arrest two international terrorists being sheltered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
This was not long after Aquino had told the victims’ families that former PNP chief Alan Purisima, whom he had illegally put in charge of the operation while under suspension by the Ombudsman on corruption charges, was to blame. He had even tried to show his “exchange of text messages” with Purisima to prove his point. Now Purisima’s name has been completely scratched from the President’s revised narrative, in to the detriment of Napeñas.
Aquino has escaped perjury by not saying anything under oath. But on Monday, as on the previous instances he spoke about Mamasapano, he lied to his face. This has compelled partylist congressman Walden Bello, a key Aquino ally, to cut off his ties with Malacañang, and for the Times’ editorial to call Aquino a “compulsive liar.” I do not relish this kind of language, but when the truth is ugly, there may not be beautiful words for it.
I once clashed vehemently with Marcos when he called PNoy’s late father, the glib-tongued former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., “an enemy of the state” and a “congenital liar.” I thought it was unduly excessive. But after listening to his equally glib-tongued schizoid son on Monday, I must say the fruit has not fallen far from the tree. My belated apologies to Marcos.
Napeñas denies Aquino’s accusations
Napeñas’ political crucifixion came during Aquino’s prayer-meeting with non-Catholic religious leaders, a day after 2,400 emotionally stricken policemen joined the “March for Justice” for the Fallen 44 in various large cities around the country—-Manila, Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu, Iloilo, and Baguio. In Malacañang, Evangelical leaders, led by Protestant bishop and politician Eddie Villanueva, whose son Joel sits on the Cabinet as head of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, rose above their usual selves to absolve Aquino of any moral or criminal responsibility.
Aquino tried to immobilize his audience with a long, boring monologue on Napeñas’ alleged culpability for the whole fiasco. He said Napeñas “fooled him,” fed him with so much wrong information, and defied his orders “to coordinate with the military.” He offered no details.
However the fact that at least one light armored brigade was reportedly standing by within a two-kilometer radius from the killing zone, and that Aquino’s stand-down order to the reinforcement troops was reportedly received by both Napeñas and Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero of the Western Mindanao Command, contradicted Aquino’s statement that there was no coordination with the military.
Through his lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre, Napeñas has issued a blanket denial of Aquino’s allegations. But assuming Napeñas was guilty (as charged by Aquino), what has that got to do with Aquino’s decision to deny reinforcement to the SAF 44?
What has that got to do with Aquino’s bungling of the entire operations from Day One? For it is clear now that Aquino had turned the otherwise legitimate police operation into a personal adventure, where he threw out all the rules and created his own.
Let us examine this proposition.
First of all, who authorized the operation? Aquino.
Who decided to cut out DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd and acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina from the PNP chain of command? Aquino,
Who illegally brought the suspended Purisima into the operation? Aquino.
Why was this done? Only Aquino knows.
With Roxas and Espina out, and Purisima illegally inserted into the operation, who was the actual “operational commander,” as distinguished from the “ground commander” from SAF, in its capacity as “force provider”? Aquino.
Aquino was the operational commander
As operational commander, wasn’t it Aquino’s task to coordinate with the AFP Chief of Staff about the operation, and the ground commander’s task to follow through, only after that high-level coordination or “instruction?” Since Aquino had taken Roxas and Espina out of the chain, did it not become his duty to “coordinate” directly with the military high command?
Did Aquino expect Napeñas to say to Roxas and Espina: “The President has cut you out, so you are not supposed to get involved in this operation. But I am coordinating with you on my own.” Has the SAF commander the same official standing as Gen. Gregorio Catapang to be directly “coordinating” with him, as Aquino said he had ordered Napeñas to do?
On Monday, Aquino said, “If I am at fault here, why should I take all the blame?” This reveals a complete lack of understanding what the presidency is all about. He alone or he before anybody else should take the blame. The buck stops with him. This is how the cookie crumbles.
Eddie Villanueva supported the President’s absolution of himself by offering a specious defense of his embattled friend. He said: “Even granting for the sake of argument that there were mistakes committed by the PNP SAF in fulfilling their noble duty in arresting a foreign terrorist…that along the way they committed mistakes, is that ground to demand the resignation of the President?”
Not a few Evangelicals were embarrassed at this unembarrassed misstatement of the proposition. As everyone knows, no one is demanding Aquino’s “resignation” because the SAF had committed any tactical errors. People want Aquino out because he had inexcusably bungled the Mamasapano operation. By ordering the reinforcement to stand down, Aquino had committed treason, as far as the SAF widows and so many other Filipinos are concerned.
Numerous and unpunished crimes
This was not Aquino’s only crime. Since August of last year, the National Transformation Council has been asking him to step down for his numerous and unpunished constitutional violations. Was it for this reason that no Catholic bishop, priest or religious was invited to the prayer-meeting? ABS-CBN’s European correspondent Danny Buenafe succeeded in interviewing Manila archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who was on a speaking engagement in London. And his was the only Catholic voice heard in defense of PNoy.
In his interview, the good Cardinal opposed the growing calls for Aquino’s resignation, saying the next presidential elections was just around the corner, and people should work instead to “strengthen institutions.” He expressed serious misgivings about a proposal that an “advisory council” take over from Aquino.
This was at variance with the position of the Catholic and Protestant bishops and pastors and Muslim ulama, who constitute the moral and spiritual leadership of the NTC.
These NTC leaders believe that Aquino was not really legitimately elected; that he has destroyed the Constitution; and that his immediate removal is necessary for the restoration of the country’s democratic institutions. The NTC believes that a multi-sectoral caretaker council, which includes representatives of labor, the farming, fishing, and urban poor sectors, should first fix the system without Aquino so that we could go back to freely holding national elections all over again.
The NTC has nothing to do with a proposal, reported by one newspaper (not the Times), for an advisory council headed by a sitting politician to run the transition. This is attributed to Aquino’s own uncle–former Congressman Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac–and his socialite-wife Tingting, who are known to support the NTC but have never claimed to be NTC members.
Aquino apparently believes the nation has swallowed all his prevarications, hook, line and sinker. This is an illusion. Even the language of the crowd has changed and is changing: many are no longer calling for Aquino’s resignation, or “stepping down;” they are now calling for his ouster.
They reject the argument that the next elections is just around the corner not just because the electoral system has become totally unacceptable, but above all because to them, Aquino’s mental instability (as shown by his unexplained behavior during the Mamasapano massacre and afterward) has become the most serious danger to the nation. No one can predict when the next psychological breakdown would occur, and what it would cost the nation.
Aquino has given no indication why he has decided to save Purisima and sacrifice Napeñas. But highly informed sources tell us that despite everything that has happened to Purisima, Aquino is determined to retain him in the service, as DILG secretary after Mar Roxas resigns.
According to these sources, Roxas is set to do so after the PNP Board of Inquiry submits its report on the Mamasapano “incident.” Roxas should have quit after Aquino took him out of the loop on the whole project. He has decided he can’t afford to miss the same boat twice, the sources said.
What about PNoy? I pray that pious men like our good Cardinal and Brother Eddie would pray together a little bit more to help Aquino see that the nation may not be able to stand much longer all his lies.