The first time I read about Senator Juan Ponce Enrile requesting that the Senate reopen its inquiry on the Mamasapano incident that killed the SAF44, I thought it was a fitting tribute for the fallen special action force policemen a year after their death.
Ah, but on radio for most of the same day, and on mainstream news Friday, what was heard was the refusal to acknowledge the value of reopening this investigation for discussion in the Senate. The spin was clear: there is no point to reopening this case, other than, one, political grandstanding, because, two, the first Senate Report on Mamasapano was, is, enough.
Unsurprisingly, the voice that dominated this conversation was Grace Poe’s.
It seemed so self-serving of course, hearing Senator Poe speak about Enrile’s request to reopen the Mamasapano Senate inquiry like it is not needed, or like it will be a waste of time.
For one thing, it was Poe who was the star of the March 2015 Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano encounter. She presided over proceedings, moderating between guests and Senators. That she gained mileage from her position as Head of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, goes without saying. At a time when the public and the SAF 44 families were grieving for the dead, her voice was one of compassion. At a time when the public clamored for the truth, Senator Poe was luckily in the position to get to the bottom of Mamasapano.
Except that of course, she didn’t.
Senator Poe speaks of her Mamasapano report as if it actually ferreted out the truth about what happened on January 25 2015. But reading the “Committee Report on the Mamasapano Incident,” available on the Senate’s official website, one comes out of it not any more informed than if one reads mainstream news reports about the incident.
The truth has to be more complex than that.
Nothing but the truth
“KATOTOHANAN: In this Report, the Committees comply with its duty to inform our people of the events leading to, during and after the Mamasapano incident.” So says the report of Senator Poe.
And yet one realizes that much of the critical information we needed to hear about the Mamasapano massacre of the SAF44 happened in executive sessions, ones that we the people were not privy to, and which this report barely touches on.
For example, what role did America play, beyond what sounded like the official line that ex-SAF Chief Getulio Napeñas had echoed during the Senate Hearings? How could America just watch from the sidelines, as per the limitations of our Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), as Filipino policemen lost their lives in capturing these international terrorists, a capture that certainly is about the global and US-controlled anti-terror discourse?
Sure, it says the President is ultimately responsible for the Mamasapano tragedy, but also it speaks more harshly against ex-PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, as it does against Napeñas, for having followed the orders of then suspended Purisima.
What it does not tell us is how the President’s culpability is one that’s bound to so many silences with regards this operation. What it does not tell us is why the President did not inform his Secretary of Defense, his Secretary of Interior and Local Government, his Adviser on the Peace Process whose work with the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the MILF would be affected, to put it mildly, by this decision to push through with Operation Exodus.
What the report does not tell us is that while yes, the President might be culpable for the outcome of this tragedy, why was the President operating in this manner, keeping the operation so top secret as to only speak of it with a suspended Purisima, and SAF Chief Napeñas?
Justice delayed, denied
“KATARUNGAN – The report contains findings on the different culpabilities of government officials and personalities who may be held liable for this tragedy.”
In many ways, this Poe report in fact is exactly the kind of report that serves this President, this government, even as it points to its foibles in this case. Because it also does not continue asking questions, nor does it recommend any action that would mean continuing with an investigation.
In fact, it positions itself as the basis of all truth and justice, a source of all we needed to get out of this story. In effect it let the injustice fester, and a year hence, it’s coming back to haunt all of us.
And rightfully so.
Because lest we forget, Senator Poe chose NOT to present this report in plenary. She said in June 2015: “Report is about facts and findings. The ombudsman acknowledged receipt of our recommendations. I will no longer present in plenary. The BBL plenary discussion can tackle any remaining questions on Mamasapano.” (Philippine Star, 18 June 2015)
But of course it was not discussed again. The media was allowed to spin whatever was in the report, and for a year Malacañang was allowed to bombard us with other issues, other concerns – and don’t forget those fancy numbers and statistics! – to distract us into forgetting about the Mamasapano-fail of the President.
And yes, the 1st death anniversary of the SAF44 will be a time of remembering. But it should also be a time to come to a better understanding of what happened, what went wrong. That the call for for justice remains is a judgment on Senator Poe’s report.
Senator Enrile’s request to reopen the inquiry in the Senate is what the SAF44 families deserve. And there is no belittling his questions with regards the days immediate after the incident: “What happened to the government? Was it functioning? Was it in paralysis? Why was there a complete silence during this critical period? What happened to the entire instrument of government to maintain order in this country to protect the people? Was there a government in those moments?” (The Standard, 8 Jan 2016)
With Enrile at the helm, we hope for less – or even no – executive sessions, and for all answers to be made public, everyone’s cards on the table.
As for Senator Poe’s spin that this might be used as an opportunity to grandstand given the 2016 elections, she need not worry. We can smell spin from a mile away.
One smells it from her for sure.