President B. S. Aquino 3rd has cleared himself of any culpability in the Jan. 25 slaughter by Bangsamoro rebels of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos tasked to bring in Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and his Filipino associate Abdul Basit Usman from their sanctuary in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, a fifth class municipality where Moro Islamic Liberation Front operates three command bases, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters at least one.
This was not a simple protestation of innocence by someone accused falsely of a crime. This was a solemn declaration from the highest authority disowning any responsibility for the fiasco that resulted in the massacre of his own men and forbidding anyone from ever accusing him of having committed any error in judgment. Aquino’s proclamation of his own non-culpability is echoed faithfully by the military command.
The Philippine National Police has created a board of inquiry to look into what happened. But it appears the decision to absolve the President of any responsibility has preceded the actual inquiry. It is hoped that the board’s formal report, if there be one, does not precede such inquiry. In Catholic practice, absolution is preceded by confession, and by restitution, if and when necessary.
We have not seen anything of either. But Aquino has the habit of absolving his sycophants and cronies even without a hearing, with the same zeal with which he condemns his perceived enemies, also without a hearing. He cannot treat himself differently.
Now, so much anger is building up and calls for Aquino to step down are mounting. “Resignation” is the term used by former supporters who believe Aquino was elected in 2010; “stepping down” is used by those who believe he was not at all legitimately elected in 2010, when Smartmatic, a Venezuelan private company, conducted the elections on behalf of the Commission on Elections, using the precinct count optical scan machines which had been illegally divested of all their safety features and accuracy mechanisms.
The latter’s number is growing.
The pro-Aquino media have reported that the AFP has rejected calls for Aquino to step down, and that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has not endorsed the call of some of its members. This report is technically correct but essentially misleading. Correct, because neither the AFP nor the CBCP as an institution has said anything about PNoy. Misleading, because no proposal has been heard from within the AFP to which the institution as such must respond. As for the CBCP, it has not met in plenary session, or even at the level of its Permanent Council, to discuss the call. So these statements about two institutions are premature.
What seems material is that the situation is so fluid that Malacanang has been compelled to initiate a “loyalty check” among members of the PNP and the AFP. The outcome of such a check could be predicted in PNoy’s favor, but would it reflect the real feelings of the rank and file? The current thrust of Malacanang’s effort is to pursue the theory of “misencounter,” arising from the alleged failure of the SAF commandos to coordinate with the AFP. But neither the “misencounter” theory nor the alleged “lack of coordination” might be able to stand a much deeper analysis.
I am probably not the only one who believes a “misencounter” happens when two armed groups belonging to the same side engage each other. This cannot possibly describe what happened in Maguindanao. Nor can they insist on a total lack of coordination with the military forces on the ground. The military maintains forward bases—the 45th infantry battalion, the 601 infantry brigade, and the 2nd mechanized brigade in Maguindanao: two SAF companies could not have passed through the area without being monitored, or without having sent prior notice about their movement. They might even have asked for help with some of their logistical requirements.
So there seems no point anymore in trying to “inquire” what happened in Mamasapano, if the only purpose is to show that the President had nothing to answer for in the whole disaster. What happened in Mamasapano is only worth inquiring further into, if the real intention is to find out why the reinforcement never came, which was why the 44 became cannon fodder. This takes us back to the question we have been asking from the very beginning, and which has been completely ignored in all the ongoing hearings.
A proper inquiry, which may be an oxymoron at this point, should try to find out not only what happened in Mamasapano, where members of the 55th and 84th Special Action Companies were reduced to texting their next of kin to ask them to relay their distressed call for help before they died, but also what was happening at the time in Zamboanga City where Aquino was monitoring everything. And the question must be asked again, and again, and again, until it is finally answered with some candor and courage: Why did Aquino order the reinforcement to stand down? If he says he did not, then somebody else did it, but since he must have heard it then he should have cancelled or reversed the order. But he did not. Why didn’t he?
Could this be the reason why when some of our top generals talk about Mamapasano, they break out crying? What heavy and unspeakable burdens do they bear which they could express only in tears? Have they perhaps come to the same conclusion as we have, in the National Transformation Council, that our real tragedy today is Aquino’s “botched presidency,” not just a “botched police operation?”