I write this on the National Day Of Mourning for the 44 police commandos of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) who died in action in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
I wish there were a way of registering my grief by falling silent. By not writing this column, by not participating in social media for the duration of one’s mourning. One knows there is value in not adding to the noise online, much of it critical as it is.
And then one watches how this President acts in the face of this tragedy. One listens to what he says, and what his spokespersons in the Palace say to defend him.
Words beget words. Silence is not an option.
Spin over compassion
More than anything, what we have heard from the government is spin. There is something they are not telling us, there is a real story that isn’t being told us.
We know this much. This was a highly confidential mission that had the PNP-SAF moving without the knowledge of the leaders of the PNP, without the knowledge of the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary. The President has said this much: he knew of this mission.
Knowing the latter is enough. It is enough for the families of the dead to expect that the President be present at Villamor Air Base when the bodies of the 44 police commandos arrived from Maguindanao. It is enough for us to, at the very least, expect that we will not see the President laughing at some inauguration or other, looking at vintage cars with wide-eyed joy, while the Villamor Air Base welcome ritual for the dead was ongoing.
Knowing that the President was in on this mission – unlike, allegedly, the members of his cabinet – is enough for us to expect that he would change his schedule around to accommodate this unfortunate turn of events.
And so when spokesperson Abigail Valte spun the President’s absence in Villamor by saying the President did not skip it – for that would presuppose that he had planned on going – that was just adding insult to injury. When spokesperson Sonny Coloma spun the public outcry by saying that a monitoring team has revealed that it was but a minority of people on social media who have been offended – that was rubbing salt on raw, open bleeding wounds.
It also revealed that the Palace was more concerned about its approval ratings than it was about doing the right thing.
We have yet to figure out what went wrong with this mission that killed 44 SAF police commandos.
But why must we watch as the President and Malacañang do everything wrong in the task of mourning with the nation and grieving with the 44 fallen officers’ families?
Truth for the 44
The call for justice is equal to the call for truth.
This is what the President’s speech at the necrological services today missed out on.
Because instead of providing us with more facts about what went on in Mamasapano, instead of providing the grieving and angry families of the 44 SAF police commandos with more information about why their fathers, husbands, sons had died in action, all the President could tell them was this: number one on his to-do list is to capture the one who got away, bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman.
Certainly it is what we might need to hear from the President at another time, maybe once he addresses the nation again to talk about what his fact-finding team has found out about this mission to serve an arrest warrant to Usman and Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan. Certainly, at some point we might need to hear that government forces have continued on in the task that these 44 SAF police commandos had set out to do, to pay tribute to them, to honor them, too.
But we did not need to hear about that today, at the necrological service for the Fallen 44. Neither did we need to hear the President saying that he knew how these families felt—because he did not. He could not know. The loss of his own father could only have been different owing to many things, including the circumstances that surrounded it, but also the fact of his social class, over those of the families in front of him earlier.
The families and friends of the SAF police commandos, the nation in mourning, needed to hear a leader who was angry at the death of the Fallen 44. We needed to hear him strongly taking a stand for the truth, and promising that it would come out no matter who might be implicated. We needed to hear the President say he could not imagine the magnitude of this loss for the families of the dead, and for the organization they were part of. What he did not know was that these 44 deaths were a great loss to a nation that knew now of how they had been protected and saved by these men, whom we now honor in their death. We needed a leader who would acknowledge our sadness and anger and grief, not one who could not deal with it so that he would talk only about himself.
The President’s words today, the Palace’s spin, beget words. Silence is not an option, lest it is believed to be consent. We speak now, so that our voices will be counted. We are angry and hurt by the way the President has handled the death of #TheFallen44. We call for #JusticeForThe44, and more importantly #TruthForThe44.
Sr. Insp. Ryan Ballesteros Pabalinas
Sr. Insp. John Garry Alcantara Erana
Sr. Insp. Max Jim Ramirez Tria
Sr. Insp. Cyrus Paleyan Anniban
Sr. Insp. Gednat G. Tabdi
Insp. Joey Sacristan Gamutan
Insp. Rennie Tayrus
SPO1 Lover L. Inocencio
PO3 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr.
PO3 Virgel S. Villanueva
PO3 Andres Viernes Duque Jr.
PO3 Vitoriano Nacion Acain
PO3 Noel Onangey Golocan
PO3 Junrel Narvas Kibete
PO3 Jed-In Abubakar Asjali
PO3 Robert Dommolog Aliaga
PO3 John Lloyd Rebammonte Sumbilla
PO2 Amman Misuari Esmulla
PO2 Peterson I. Carap
PO2 Roger C. Cordero
PO2 Nicky DC Nacino Jr.
PO2 Glenn Berecio Badua
PO2 Chum Goc-Ong Agabon
PO2 Richelle Salangan Baluga
PO2 Noel Nebrida Balaca
PO2 Joel Bimidang Dulnuan
PO2 Godofredo Basak Cabanlet
PO2 Franklin Cadap Danao
PO2 Walner Faustino Danao
PO2 Jerry Dailay Kayob
PO2 Noble Sungay Kiangan
PO2 Ephraim G. Mejia
PO2 Omar Agacer Nacionales
PO2 Rodel Eva Ramacula
PO2 Romeo Valles Senin II
PO1 Russel Bawaan Bilog
PO1 Angel C. Kodiamat
PO1 Windell Llano Candano
PO1 Loreto Guyab Capinding
PO1 Gringo Charag Cayang-o
PO1 Romeo Cumanoy Cempron
PO1 Mark Lory Orloque Clemencio
PO1 Joseph Gumatay Sagonoy
PO1 Oliebeth Ligutan Viernes.