Let me say this plainly and directly. The lead committee of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano incident/massacre is a scapegoat envisioned to take all the blame when the inquiry falls short of producing real answers to serious questions that underpin the tragedy, and casts a shadow on the future of peace and stability in Mindanao.
Sacked Special Action Force (SAF) director Getulio Napeñas is the designated scapegoat who will take all blame for the ill-fated law enforcement operation in Mamasapano, by conceding under oath that no official higher than him ordered the operation, least of all President Aquino.
The problem with this tale of multiple scapegoats is that the media and the public will not buy it. Already made skeptical by President Aquino’s dithering and wishy-washy leadership, they will get angry when the inquiry officially comes up with nothing
Some people tell me that the Senate inquiry was not designed to produce anything in the way of serious facts and perpetrators of the massacre. I should look at it as a political inquiry, and not as a serious investigation whose objective is to establish facts and submit findings that will lead to the indictment or firing of people.
If this is the case, then the Senate is proving yet again that it cannot be trusted by the people.
What are we to conclude when we are told that the hearings, after parading before us grandstanding senators, clueless generals and inscrutable MILF officers, have abruptly been aborted.
After just three hearings, and with the inquiry finally getting some revealing answers from witnesses and resource persons last Thursday, the lead committee chaired by Sen. Grace Poe announced that the hearings on Mamasapano are over. It offered as indirect explanation the committee’s decision to hold an executive session with generals Purisima and Napeñas, during which they would be quizzed on confidential matters, some involving President Aquino and some involving (I’m guessing) the US government—which the Times editorial yesterday said are the biggest elephants in the Senate hall.
After whipping up public interest in the inquiry, the Senate is abandoning it with nary a whimper. It seems convinced that Senate President Franklin Drilon can now report to President Aquino “mission accomplished,” because a scapegoat for Mamasapasano has been found in the person of sacked commander Napeñas. Aquino’s responsibility in the tragedy has been successfully covered up. It can report truthfully that every time a question was raised about Aquino’s role and US involvement in the incident, the witness would clam up and invoke executive privilege or ask for a closed-door session.
Every time someone brought up the idea of calling Aquino to testify, he or she was buried by truckloads of arguments that said the President can only be summoned by Congress in an impeachment proceeding.
Sen. Grace Poe tried her utmost to portray an able chair of a Senate committee, but she was in over her head. On a matter of supreme national interest and urgency, the Senate sent the most junior member of the chamber to play the gladiator among the lions. Seasoned observers of congressional and independent inquiries wondered why the Senate reposed so much faith in Senator Poe’s ability to unravel the tragedy of Mamasapano. They wondered even more when Ms. Poe asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to orate on her legal opinion and acumen, which no one could relate to the issue at hand.
Besides Poe’s committee on public order, there were three other committees involved in the hearing, which are headed by more senior senators, viz.: the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. , the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation chaired by Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III; and the Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Each of these committees is tasked to tackle issues that are integral and fundamental to the nation’s questions about the Mamasapano incident. And they are headed by chairs who are experienced in conducting hearings, and have gone out in the field to questions from the people.
Presumably, Poe’s committee was picked because Mamasapano involved a law enforcement operation, and because Poe was the first to file a resolution calling for an inquiry. But if the reasoning was as shallow as that; why should the public and the media place any faith in the hearings? Why should we have confidence that Ms. Poe’s committee has gotten enough from its inquiry to come up with a report that can help resolve the crisis.
Given its narrow scope and shallow investigation, it is doubtful whether a serious inquiry report, with conclusions and recommendations, can be produced by the Senate inquiry, because in truth Ms. Poe refused to delve into areas that could shed more light on the incident, and on actors involved in the drama of war and peace in Mindanao.
This is all that the Senate set out to do. This is what President Aquino wants. He doesn’t even have to lie anymore.