‘WE get the government we deserve’ has rung so often in our history as a nation that sometimes we wonder if it is history teaching us the hard lessons and us, the body polity, just never learning from it.
Over the weekend, articles came out about the so-called Mendiola massacre, when farmers marched to Mendiola demanding the implementation of agrarian reform program. On 22 January 1987 or 29 years ago, farmer leader Jaime Tadeo’s group decided to march to Malacañang to air their demands. Tadeo’s group was met by a phalanx of security at the foot of Mendiola. “After the clash, 12 marchers were officially confirmed dead, 39 were wounded by gunshots and 12 sustained minor injuries, all belonging to the group of the marchers. Of the police and military personnel, 3 sustained gunshot wounds and 20 suffered minor physical injuries such as abrasions, contusions and the like.”
The petition that reached the Supreme Court started from the suit of the heirs of the deceased, as well as those who were injured, for damages against the Republic of the Philippines. The SC affirmed the dismissal of the case on the ground that the State cannot be sued without its consent. The State cannot be held civilly liable for the deaths arising from the incident. Any liability falls on the public officials who have been found to have acted beyond the scope of their authority. Sounds familiar?
And so from such bloodied past, nothing really came out of that. People who were accountable, just marched to the “glory” of their acts and in the great tradition of this country, left to future generations the accountability of public officers who were involved in such clearing operation. And again, the same act reared its ugly head in Mamasapano.
A year after, no one knows where the “great” PNP Chief Alan Purisima is. He who was serving a suspension by the Ombudsman but was part in the preparation of the mission and who was actively calling the shots without the knowledge of then OIC Leonardo Espina and SILG then, Mar Roxas. Interestingly, concepts were introduced, some redefined, such as time-on-target and command responsibility, among others.
After all the congressional hearings, responsibility lies with Purisima. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales “approved the filing of charges against former National Police chief Alan LM Purisima, Director Getulio P. Napeñas Jr. and nine other police officers in connection with the Mamasapano raid, that resulted in the killing of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos by Moro separatist rebels and bandits. Assistant Ombudsman Asyrman T. Rafanan, in a news conference, said that Purisima, Napeñas and Chief Supt. Fernando Mendez Jr. face charges of Grave Misconduct, and violation of Section 3(a) of the Antigraft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019.Rafanan said Purisima also faces a charge of Usurpation of Official Functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).”
Purisima and Napeñas are also charged, according to Rafanan, “with Neglect of Duty along with Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, Senior Supt. Richard de la Rosa, Senior Supt. Edgar Monsalve, Senior Supt. Abraham Abayari, Senior Supt. Raymund Train, Senior Supt. Michael John Mangahis, Senior Supt. Rey Ariño and Senior Inspector Recaredo Marasigan.” Were all these pronouncements actually made? Was Purisima allowed to retire with full benefits? Did he retire with full police honors befitting a four star general?
Yes, the Lead Senate committee headed by Sen. Grace Poe said the “buck stops with the President”, but the sound and fury was just that. The committee report never reached plenary and no votation was ever made. So, why conduct a congressional hearing and get recommendations implemented?
One wonders what happened to Purisima because after his stony like appearance during the congressional hearings, nothing came out after. It’s as if Purisima became a ghost. Where is he? Whatever happened to him? Shades of early officials under this administration, they just fade quietly, without much accountability. Just like Yolanda, where lives were loss and no one was ever held administratively accountable for the ill preparedness of leaders, agencies and the whole machinery of government. As one official often said, “let it be, move on.”
And so that has been the kind of leadership this administration has been known for. Let it be. Close ranks and protect the King. Even when people die because of incompetence or because of sheer inutility in the face of disasters, man made or otherwise. It has been the peculiar trait of this administration to operate in silos. The party comes to life only for politics (the transactional variety) and not for governance or policy formulation and implementation. Take a look at the implementation of the RH law and the the presidential veto on the increased SSS pension. The agencies of government simply do not talk to each other. Deniability is designed into the decision making process. Consensus has never been its strong suite.
It has been said that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. Five years after, both are wanting and when lives are loss, both are lacking.