President B. S. Aquino 3rd had a long meeting with top generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last Sunday, but they came out “frustrated” with what they heard and did not hear about the government’s failure to respond to the distressed calls for reinforcement of the 44 Special Action Force police commandos who were slaughtered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Jan 25.
A highly informed source close to Malacañang gave this assessment after talking to a general who attended the two-hour Palace meeting.
Aquino simply danced around the issue, the source said, quoting the general at the meeting. As in his previous two televised statements after the massacre, Aquino failed to tell the generals what really happened at Mamasapano. He also failed to provide any “strategic directions” on how the military and the police should now proceed in the face of mounting calls for his government to step down and for the National Transformation Council to provide a caretaker government.
The generals’ lukewarm response to the President’s presentation may have led Aquino to do some serious soul-searching on what to do in the next few days. The massacre has produced a deeply enraged citizenry, a mortally wounded Philippine National Police and an intensely troubled AFP. This is a dangerous and explosive brew for the politically embattled Aquino, who has owned responsibility for the tragedy, but refused to accept its consequences, which demand his immediate removal.
Thus talks of a brewing military coup have been heard from various groups who openly say that since Aquino will not step down a coup is the only way to remove him. These are further fanned by people like Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, a former coup plotter, who are trying very hard to divert public attention away from Aquino’s culpability in the Mamasapano tragedy by accusing others of plotting against him.
Trillanes has singled out former National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales as the one trying to instigate or organize a coup. Gonzales is a founding member of the National Transformation Council, which is calling for Aquino’s stepping down. Unfortunately for Trillanes, Gonzales has consistently rejected the coup as the proper way of removing Aquino. This is the position of the whole NTC.
But thanks to Trillanes, Gonzales has now lost all anonymity. He has become the hottest “guest” on the local TV and radio interview circuit, and now gets regularly stopped by people who did not want to be seen talking to him after the Arroyo administration lost power four years ago. And by insisting on the existence of a coup conspiracy, Trillanes may have succeeded in creating the very danger that he and his group are trying to avoid. He may have succeeded in encouraging some members of the PNP and the AFP to think that a coup against Aquino could easily succeed, and should in fact be tried.
This could be one reason why Aquino met with the generals on Sunday, and with some families of the Fallen 44 at Camp Crame on Wednesday.
Now, if his meeting with the generals was a “dud,” it would not be inaccurate to say that the entire armed services are probably doing some hard thinking right now on what to do in the light of Aquino’s unexplained accountability. Both the military and the police remain deeply committed to support the superiority of civilian authority under the Constitution. But what happens when the civilian leadership has lost its moral authority and constitutional legitimacy?
This is what the NTC has repeatedly pointed out in all its general assemblies from Lipa last August 27, to Cebu on October 1, to Butuan on November 11, to Angeles City on December 3, to Davao on Dec 5 and General Santos on Dec 16. This was most recently repeated in a statement by some NTC bishops on February 13. The NTC has stated that given his growing list of impeachable but unpunished offenses, Aquino has lost any moral authority to remain in office, and after Mamasapano has become a grave danger to the people and the state.
Some of these assemblies have actually urged the NTC to organize “an alternative government,” except that the NTC has been much more deliberate in its response.
The Mamasapano massacre, however, has brought the issue to a head.
In a conversation with this writer yesterday, one retired police “general”/diplomat pointed out that the question Aquino must answer to the nation, now and for posterity, is whether the SAF 44 were betrayed by their own President and Commander-in-Chief. This is a question that answers itself, as far as the families of the victims, the members of the PNP and a big part of the nation are concerned.
Aquino cannot escape responsibility, and must be made to pay. This need not involve any violent upheaval, nor even massive mobilization of the population. Aquino could step down peacefully and graciously, perhaps following some conciliatory negotiations. He could then activate the exit plan previously packaged by his uncle Len Oreta with the Sultan of Johore or an alternative plan that involves Japan. This would be the wisest way out.
Neither Aquino nor the NTC would like to see a coup, but it may have become a real possibility following his meeting with the generals. For although none of the generals expessed themselves at the meeting, they must have gotten a clearer picture of the psychological makeup of their Commander-in-Chief at close range. It appears clear from our report that they were made to see very clearly that the President was the one who failed to give the necessary order that could have saved the fallen 44. He did not simply decide poorly; he simply failed to give the proper order because of a psychological breakdown. His mind could not fully process the situation to come up with the proper response on time.
This was not because of a character defect but rather because of a psychological disorder, which has manifested itself in every natural or man-made calamity or traumatic situation Aquino has had to face. Until Yolanda, the nation could afford to let it pass. But after Mamasapano, the nation could not take its chances anymore. It cannot afford to put a person with such disorder in charge of its security and safety even for a minute longer.
Now, if evidence of this was on full display to the generals last Sunday, how long will it take before they decide to act as the constitutional protector of the people and the State to save us from a psychologically afflicted President? We must try to make that move unnecessary by convincing Aquino instead to activate his exit plan now.