TWO days after the annihilation by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of a company of policemen under the Special Action Force (SAF), which served warrants of arrest for known international terrorists in Maguindanao Province, the nation awaits with bated breath for a statement from the President.
In a very strange and troubling development, President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, who is usually vocal about the things that bother him, has remained silent even as the families of the slain policemen await words of comfort from the country’s highest political leader.
The killing of 64 policemen, a figure supplied by the MILF, in Sunday’s carnage in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, marked the worst day in the history of the country’s police and security forces.
It was the highest casualty suffered by government forces in a single incident.
The last time a massacre of government troops happened was about 38 years ago, when 35 army officers led by Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista were mowed down by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Usman Sali who tricked the soldiers to attend a “peace talk” in Patikul, Sulu.
The Mamasapano routing of the specially trained policemen has been variably labeled by those in government, notably Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and the MILF leadership as a “misencounter” and described as an “unfortunate incident.”
Those who know of the actual circumstances surrounding the incident, however, call the killing of the policemen a “massacre.”
There were even groups who tried to put the slain policemen in a bad light and trivialized their deaths by saying that the victims were after the $5-million reward offered by the US government for Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian bomb maker who was reportedly being coddled by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MILF.
Whether it was a “massacre” or “mis-encounter” resulting from either the greed for the reward money or the performance of their police duties, hardly matter as of now.
The actual details of the incident will be known during the investigation and the relatives of the victims are well aware of that.
What is markedly absent is the Presidential pronouncement and reaction to the annihilation of one company of his Philippine National Police in the hands of members of the MILF which has signed a peace agreement with the Philippine government.
In times of crisis, people look up to their leader for words of assurances and comfort or even a hug and embrace to reassure them that everything will be all right.
Leaders who fail to do this are considered insensitive, if not indecisive.
The President must now speak up.
Two days is too long a wait for words of comfort from a leader who truly cares.