SENATE Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile is convinced that the Mamasapano massacre will doom the presidential bid of Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd no matter how much he tries to distance himself from the tragedy.
Enrile said even if President Benigno Aquino 3rd is directly responsible for the poor handling of the police operation that led to the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF), Roxas will not escape the fallout of the carnage because the President represents the ruling party.
“He [President] embodies the entire Liberal Party and [that]is why Roxas is not doing well in my province,” Enrile said, referring to Cagayan, north of Manila.
The senator noted that Roxas was the secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) when the police commandos were mowed down by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and fighters of other private armed groups.
Enrile said the LP presidential candidate was even with Aquino in Zamboanga on January 25, 2015 when the massacre happened.
“He [Roxas] was [then]the head of the Interior department. He should have held the hand of his President and said, ‘Hey, Mr. President, my men are dying in the field’,” the lawmaker added.
Roxas, in his testimony during a hearing by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on the Mamasapano massacre, said he was kept out of the loop and only learned about Oplan Exodus several hours after the operation was carried out.
Based on records of the Senate committee, he received the first text message informing him about the operation at 7:43 a.m.
Roxas forwarded the message to Aquino at 7:46 a.m.
Enrile said Roxas already knew about the encounter as early as 7 a.m. but he did not do anything to help the police commandos.
The senator, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, said he will make the Mamasapano incident as an election issue to show the kind of leader the administration party has.
He added that if LP will use the issue of corruption against Binay, then he will use the Mamasapano massacre against the LP standard-bearer.
Enrile cited his 50 years in public service and corruption issues have been used against presidential aspirants in the past like former President Ferdinand Marcos when he ran against then-President Diosdado Macapagal of the Liberal Party.
Marcos, the senator said, was portrayed as corrupt but still won the presidency.
Roxas has said the frustration of the people is the biggest obstacle that he will have to hurdle.
While the Aquino administration made some gains, according to him, not all problems have been addressed.
“It’s really the frustration of the people. Yes, we had achievements, we have helped people [through]good governance. But I am not saying that we are already in paradise. So the challenge is the frustration of the people,” Roxas said in a radio interview.
He maintained that the Aquino administration steered the country to progress, also citing increased infrastructure spending in Mindanao that reached P256 billion, double the P125 billion poured into the region for 12 years under the Estrada and Arroyo administrations.
Roxas said traffic woes and airport congestion are being addressed with elevated highways expected to be ready in a few years.
“Everything won’t happen in an instant. It takes time. What I am saying is I will work on those left undone, I will right the wrongs and will sustain the gains made. These are what I can do. I have a platform and I have a vision on where do I want to take this country,” he added.
“Are we content with what happened? No. We are not perfect, but we have gone a long way. Are we happy with what we have? Not yet,” Roxas said.