THIS is the only way to save the Senate and House inquiries into the Mamasapano case from being Sisyphean endeavors – efforts doomed to repetitiveness and futility.
Unless the Senate and House muster some courage this week, their separate inquiries into the Mamasapano incident/massacre will go nowhere. The people will write them off as a corrupt and dishonest waste of money and a waste of time.
We said at the start of the Senate inquiry that there was a huge elephant in the session hall, whom the senators pretended not to notice. And he was none other than President Benigno “BS” Aquino 3rd, the president of our republic and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Philipines. Sen. Grace Poe has steadfastly refused to call him to testify on his role and responsibility in the tragedy; she is even scared of the thought. Now, it is reported that she is planning to call a halt to the inquiry.
There is another elephant in the Senate and Batasan halls, which the congressional probers are pretending not to see. And this is Uncle Sam, and the role that his government and military and intelligence services played in the mission to get and terminate with extreme prejudice Malaysian terrorist Marwan and Filipino terrorist Usman.
Neither house wants to inquire into the US role, especially a line of inquiry that goes deeply into why the US, since the time of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been pushing our government and our presidents into writing highly questionable agreements with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and committing to the creation of a separate Bangsamoro substate.
We saw how sensitive the subject is, when a question was raised about the FBI’s findings on Marwan’s index finger. Immediately, someone moved that the matter should be discussed behind closed doors.
Congress is fooling itself if it imagines that the public does not realize that a double cover-up is taking place. It is an even bigger fool if it does not recognize that our citizenry is close to reaching a conclusion different from the one that is being manufactured. Congress is reckless if it does not see that the ranks of our military and police are deeply disturbed and anguished by what took place in Mamasapano as well as what is taking place at the hearings.
The fastest way to correct this dismal state of affairs is to bring the elephants up front, and to hear testimony and investigate their roles.
Former president Fidel V. Ramos showed how much President Aquino has to explain about Mamasapano, when in his speech at the 70th commemoration of the battle of Manila in World War II, he contended that SAF Director Getulio Napeñas should stop blaming himself for the Mamasapano debacle and instead throw the “real blame” at higher officials. He declared that Napeñas was “being made a scapegoat.”
He also said that the line of responsibility goes straight to BS Aquino. Ramos’ words were painfully clear, “I said it before, there are many chains of command—military, police, civilian, NGO, the media. The military chain of command is a bit different from the PNP chain of command, but both have one characteristic—the President is the Commander-in-Chief.
“As military Commander-in-Chief, his chain of command goes down to the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The secretary of defense is just an alter ego. Same with the interior secretary and the chief of the PNP. They cannot order operations unless delegated by the President.”
Regarding US involvement, there was an Agence France-Presse report last Saturday that “Philippine security officials confirmed intelligence sharing between the Philippines and US security forces but would not comment on the involvement of American troops in the Mamasapano incident.”
Zamboanga City police chief Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro disclosed that representatives of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had visited the local police office, offering training for the personnel as part of Washington’s commitment to help its ally in Asia. We may be sure that the US role is much bigger than that.
Our senators and congressmen have the illusion that the facts about these elephants can be established through clever questioning of resource persons. This is a delusion that must be dropped immediately.
A proper inquiry and commission would not be content to throw questions in a televised hearing. It would field experienced investigators and researchers to gather facts and information. This is why Congress creates a commission of inquiry by law and vests it with powers.
While the House and Senate inquiry may reflect a proper exercise of Congress’ oversight responsibilities, it is not enough to satisfy the nation’s need for all the facts of what happened in Mamasapano and what went wrong.
The biggest reason why an independent inquiry is needed is that our Congress itself is under scrutiny. It is today the least trusted institution of the government.
Building trust in the inquiries and in Congress itself begins with recognizing the elephants in the room.