A big flop is what the recent so-called reopening of the Senate investigation on the SAF 44 Massacre has been. I – and the entire nation for that matter – had expected to hear a blast from a playing of the alleged recorded conversation between two officials that had been fanned in the media in the lead up to the Senate hearing January 27. No such playing ever materialized. And Senator Llamanzares went on record as having ruled that the record of the case, done a year ago, remained unchanged.
That record certainly had President Aquino escaping blame for the carnage. Although in the early stages she distinctly told the media the President is accountable.
General Getulio Napeñas, the former SAF Director who got all the blame for the tragic events in Mamasapano, Maguindanao could be the most disappointed in this development. A week earlier, during the advance commemoration of the deaths of the Fallen 44 by their widows and comrades in the Pilippine National Police in Baguio City, he was expressing high hopes that the Enrile bombshell would this time turn the tide in his favor.
“Let’s wait what Manong Johnny would do,” he said.
How particularly pathetic General Napeñas looked as he himself could only utter “Yes” to what Senator Enrile accomplished as a reprise of assertions made in the Senate investigation a year ago.
If President Aquino had been absolved in the first investigation of any culpability in the massacre of the PNP elite commandos, then simply repeating the process in that investigation would achieve no different result. What would the reopening of the Senate investigation of the case achieve but a repeat of his earlier absolution?
His body language betraying a modus vivendi he must have reached with Enrile prior to the reopening of the investigation, General Napeñas could only cast a lame stare at the questioning senator before uttering his same lame “Yes.”
Was General Napeñas being just too politically naïve as not to realize that Senate investigations have not been conducted “in aid of legislation” as often popularly alleged but to advance someone’s political agenda? Somebody who has been into this milieu to be able to know whereof he speaks calls the Enrile failed spectacle “leveraging.” What did Enrile intend to get across to an intended party by vociferously prattling about exposing the content of the alleged high-level conversation that would ultimately pinpoint responsibility for the deaths of SAF 44 on the President? And what did he achieve by holding back on that punch at the precise occasion it was expected?
My own experience with Senate investigations was way back in 1991 when Mr. Robbie Tan, Seiko Films Executive Producer, and I were summoned by the Senate committee dealing with film entertainment. Media-sponsored outcries against one of our films ostensibly prompted the Senate inquiry. At the end of the inquiry, Senator Ramon Revilla found nothing objectionable about the film—but not after a high-profile public relations operator worked on the members of the committee.
There’s no claiming here that our case was anywhere close to the SAF 44 in all terms, social, political or otherwise. The point is that Senate investigation of our film produced results a far cry from crafting new laws on the matter of motion picture.
The first Senate investigation of the Mamasapano incident was concluded a year ago. May we ask what legislation or legislations have been made by way of learning lessons from the tragedy, like, say, a law defining the parameters of cooperation or coordination by Philippine police and military in foreign-initiated operations such as Oplan Exodus. As it is, when another similar occasion takes place, nothing prohibits the President from doing again exactly what he did to the SAF 44.
A rundown of the events leading to the SAF 44 carnage discloses that the initial instruction to SAF Director Napenas for Oplan Exodus came from then CPNP Alan Purisima. But it has never been denied that, as revealed in a news account in a California newspaper, the intelligence for the plan to get Marwan was provided by the FBI. On the whole, therefore, Oplan Exodus was pursuant to US intelligence. Under existing relations between the Philippines and the United States, what law is in place governing implementation of foreign initiatives in Philippine intrinsic police and military operations? If there is such a law, the Senate investigation on Mamasapano should have been whether or not there has been conformation to such law? If none, then it should have been one of the objectives of the Senate Mamasapano investigation to find out.
Sadly, indeed, the “leveraging” that has been the hallmark of the SAF 44 Senate inquiry, the truly relevant questions have not been raised, hence, have remained unanswered. Now, isn’t that just the case of so many other such investigations in the past – serving purposes other than what it’s supposed to do: in aid of legislation.
Just to cite one more stark example, the Senate investigation in 1989 of the Plaza Miranda Bombing in 1971. After much hullabaloo, including the granting to Communist Party of the Philippines Chairman Jose Maria Sison the privilege to throw questions, the inquiry resulted in no legislation that would remedy the most notorious instance of inequity in a grand political rally. Two grenades blasted the Liberal Party miting de avance that August 21, 1971, killing two and wounding and maiming more than a hundred, including the entire Liberal Party Senate slate except one – Liberal Party Secretary General and, according to Senator Jovito Salonga, the star of the show, Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., father of the incumbent President. One legislation that should have come about as a result of the Senate investigation on the bombing is one which bans Secretaries General and Stars of the Show in the miting de avance of their political parties from being absent. That way, on the dangers of getting maimed or killed, share and share alike.