President BS Aquino’s obsession to conceal his responsibility and acccountbility for the events that happened in Mamasapano has transmogrified (grotesquely changed) into a conspiracy to gag PNP officers in order to prevent the facts and the truth from coming out.
The administration policy on the incident/massacre began as a simple attempt at deception. Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas got things rolling by immediately calling it a misencounter (which the government peace panel and the MILF promptly adopted), and then by immediately firing the SAF general in command of the mission: General Getulio Napeñas.
At this early stage, it was just deception or lying; no criminal offense yet, just ostensibly bad judgment and poor choice of words.
When the misencounter did not fly, and the public and the media cried “massacre” and screamed for the facts to be uncovered and disclosed, the government policy turned into an active cover-up of the truth. The truth especially regarding BS Aquino’s signal role in Oplan Exodus, and his total failure and cowardice on ordering rescue operations to save the lives of SAF commandos on the day of the incident.
The cover-up initially succeeded in keeping Aquino’s accountability completely hidden from the official inquiries, which turned in reports that hardly mentioned Aquino at all.
In this coverup stage, the Aquino policy became an unlawful conspiracy to conceal vital information.
Now, we are in the third stage. The Aquino policy has turned into a PNP- wide order gagging all police officers not to disclose any information on the massacre.
At this stage, the policy has become a crime of abuse of power, a betrayal of public trust, and an attempt to induce junior officers and officials to commit illegal acts. This could very well serve as grounds for the ouster of the President by either impeachment or public protest.
Different degrees of wrongdoing
It is useful to understand the gradations of wrongdoing implied by each term: deception, coverup and gag order. It makes a whale of a difference.
Note this memorable historical lesson.
It was not, strictly speaking, the break-in at Watergate that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1973. It was the criminal conspiracy to cover up the crime, led by president Nixon himself, who misused the US law enforcement apparatus (justice department and FBI) to conceal the truth.
Deception — Deception is simple enough by definition. It is lying, prevarication or misrepresentation. But it can rise to life-and-death proportions for an administration, depending on the degree of the offense. Lying nearly brought down the Reagan presidency in the Iran-Contra-scandal.
Cover-up – a cover-up is any plan to avoid detection of wrongdoing; or an act to conceal a mistake. It also denotes the conspiracy to obstruct justice as in the Watergate case. Obstruction of justice in the end was thought to be the offense that was certain to persuade Congress to impeach Nixon. Faced with that certitude, Nixon resigned.
In the Watergate case, according to a transcript of a taped conversation between Nixon and his justice secretary, John Mitchell, Nixon said: “I want you all to stonewall it, let them [the Watergate burglars]plead the fifth amendment, cover-up or anything else, if it’ll save it – save the plan.”
Nixon himself could not be saved.
Gag order — In the annals of presidential administration, President Aquino may have introduced a new category of wrongdoing in concealing the truth. He has apparently issued an order to all SAF and PNP officers and officials not to reveal information on the Mamasapano incident.
A gag order (also known as a gagging order or suppression order) is an order, typically a legal order by a court or government, restricting information or comment from being made public, or in some cases, passed onto any unauthorized third party.
The Aquino administration has now employed the gag order, and there is a danger that Aquino could gag on it.
Gagging the national police
Information about the gag order on Mamasapano burst into the open as a result of President Aquino’s disclosure that he is studying an “alternative version” of what happened in Mamasapano
When the alternative version turned out to be the version of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) alleging that the SAF commandos did not kill Marwan, but Marwan’s aide, top SAF and PNP officials took umbrage. Some disclosed to media that PNP officers were ordered not to talk about the incident.
One PNP top official told the Manila Times that there is much resentment among officers and men toward the recent statement of President Aquino that he is studying an “alternative version” of the tragedy.
The source said that many SAF officers felt offended by the President’s disclosure, noting that the supposed new leads are actually “misleads.”
The source said the SAF officers were given orders not to respond to questions regarding the “alternative truth.”
“You can ask around. That is, if SAF officers will reply to you because they have been directed not to make any comments. They were told not to talk. The PNP has extensively investigated the incident through the Board of Inquiry. How will General [Director Benjamin] Magalong react to this?” the police official said.
Magalong has stood pat on the report of the Board of Inquiry. He declared: “I stand by my report. The [surviving]SAF officers risked their lives as their colleagues sacrificed their own just to get Marwan. They have saved the lives of many people who would have been victimized by him.”
The report contained more than 300 signed affidavits of SAF members, military officials, witnesses and other civilians who provided information on the firefight.
Magalong was summoned to Malacañang days after he released the board’s report. Magalong said the President was clearly upset by the results of the probe. Last month, the police officer was replaced at his old post in the CIDG.
According to The Manila Times source, he will come out “at the right time” to reveal everything he knows about the bungled operation.
“Clearly, this alternative truth is aimed at discrediting the SAF. And this can only be done by someone who feels guilty about it. There are efforts to exonerate top officials,” the source said.
When asked if the “guilty” officials include President Aquino, the source replied, “Of course.”
Alternative truth an oxymoron
By any serious reckoning, the term “alternative truth” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.
Strictly speaking, Presudent Aquino used the term “ alternative version” during his dialogue with the Inquirer. It was Mohagher Iqbal and the paper who introduced the term into public discourse. Confusing terms and identities is apparently one of the special skills of Iqbal.
The bigger problem of President Aquino is the resentment of PNP officers and men, who number more than our entire armed forces.
Then there are the widows and families of the slain 44, who up to now have been waiting for justice to be done to their loved ones. You can cut their bitterness with a knife.
Finally, there is the public and the rest of the nation, who are watching this story unfold.
I can’t find a single soul who agrees with Malacañang’s version of Mamasapano.
They say to a man that the truth all along is that President Aquino abandoned and betrayed the SAF commandos. They believe Aquino betrayed them to save his BBL project and to appease the MILF.
To a man, they will tell you that Aquino has committed an act of treason.
This is a grimmer verdict than Sen. Grace Poe’s gentle conclusion in her brief report of the Senate hearings that the President bore “ultimate responsibility” for the Mamasapano tragedy.
No wonder, Aquino wants her to run with Mar Roxas, and Poe wants to lead another inquiry into Mamasapano.