WITH the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs reopening the Mamasapano probe, all eyes will soon be on committee chairman and presidential hopeful Senator Grace Poe. How Poe handles the investigation and whether she can extract other crucial facts will not only be test of her credibility and independence. It will also determine whether she remains a force to be reckoned with, given the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) presidential survey showing her sliding down to second place.
If Poe wants to stop her plummeting survey ratings, she should stop “playing safe” as she did during the first Mamasapano probe when she pulled her punches every time PNoy seemed to be in the firing line.
She took the right first step by not inhibiting from the reopened probe, as Senator Alan Peter Cayetano had suggested. But now that she’ll be back at the head of the table, she cannot be a passive participant. Her pronouncements in a recent radio interview that she will “just moderate in the hearing” smacks of political fence-sitting. Poe has to prove to Filipino voters that she has the intestinal fortitude to extract the answers to the many lingering questions about the Mamasapano massacre, even if it means antagonizing PNoy and his allies.
If she’s again too soft on PNoy, it will only reinforce the backdoor chatter that she is treating him with kid gloves because she is still holding out for his last-minute support or endorsement, or – as others claim – because she was prevailed upon by Senator Chiz Escudero, her running mate and PNoy’s good friend and political ally. We hope Poe does not make the same mistake.
PNoy has already drawn first blood by taking a dig at Poe for reopening the Senate investigation into the killing of police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, insinuating that Poe did such a poor job as chair which was why the committee report was returned to her.
The President noted that – during his stint as congressman and senator – it is an “insult” for a committee report to be returned to the chairman. “I asked if the rules of the Senate have changed. The Senate President [Drilon] told me that the committee chair [Poe] did not object which is why it was returned to the committee. If the committee chair objected, the plenary would have to vote whether to return it to the committee or not,” PNoy explained.
PNoy’s demeanor toward Poe is a far cry from six months ago when he was courting the neophyte lady senator to run as vice-president to Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas. He even invited Poe for a one-on-one meeting lasting for five hours hoping to persuade her to agree to his plan for the administration coalition to field one ticket for the 2016 elections. Months after that meeting, PNoy continued to woo Poe into joining the Liberal Party (LP) ticket. He even announced during a media forum that he was not giving up on Poe as Roxas’ running mate.
“I understand and sympathize with his predicament and situation. I consider him a true and sincere friend and he has my utmost respect,” Poe admiringly declared then.
We don’t know if Poe still considers PNoy as a “true and sincere friend” now that his political allies are reportedly moving heaven and earth to disqualify her. What we’re certain of is that her former suitors won’t stop until she is pounded into submission, either by disqualification or by votation. The upcoming Mamasapano probe might be her last chance to prove her mettle or to lay down her political legacy in case the Supreme Court boots her out of the Senate and/or the presidential race.
PNoy obviously does not relish the Senate reopening the can of worms that he believed had been permanently closed. But that’s his problem, not Poe’s. She can – and should – ask the hard questions she cunningly avoided during the first Mamasapano probe.
Among them, why did PNoy not directly coordinate the mission with then PNP OIC Espina and then AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang instead of his “expert adviser,” suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, to coordinate with them? And why was PNoy giving orders to a suspended Purisima, as Roxas admitted during several media interviews. More importantly, what did PNoy do (or not do) while he was receiving regular updates from his military commanders at his Zamboanga headquarters?
There are several other crucial questions that the public and the widows and orphans of the slain SAF 44 members want answered. As committee chairman and presidential hopeful, Poe needs to show that she can, once and for all, ferret out the truth about what really happened at Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015. Her political future depends on it.