In trying to shield President B. S. Aquino 3rd from any accountability for the death of the 44 Special Action Force police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima virtually immolated himself, took the grand prize for lying, and all but dethroned Beelzebub as “the father of all lies.” He claimed total accountability for the fiasco, and tried to whitewash it of any presidential culpability or involvement. But the attempted whitewash failed to wash. Aquino remains stuck where he is.
According to Purisima, “the responsibility, the accountability rests with me,” without saying that he now awaits his just desserts within the power of the law. He admitted running Operation Exodus for the President, briefing him regularly on it, but “failing to coordinate” with the AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. and the acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina, after involving SAF commander Getulio Napenas in it. And he did all this while under suspension by the Ombudsman as PNP Chief in connection with serious corruption charges.
Senators were quick to denounce “usurpation,” but quite slow to see the President’s hand behind it. As a suspended police officer, Purisima had lost his active official standing in the police organization; he was no more than an outsider as far as the office of the PNP chief was concerned. He was able to insert himself into Oplan Exodus, which was tasked to go after two international terrorists being sheltered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, only because Aquino had ordered or authorized it. But the order violated the existing suspension order of the Ombudsman, and was therefore void ab initio.
Thus Purisima could not rightfully say, “the responsibility, the accountability rests with me” since, legally speaking, there was no “me” to speak of, in the first place. He had no right to be where he was as far as Oplan Exodus was concerned; he had no legal personality to be in charge or even part of any police project whatsoever. The only thing he could have correctly said was this: “The responsibility rests with the President. He authorized me to run the operation, despite my having been suspended from office. I simply obeyed him, even though I knew he was violating the law in giving me my assignment. We violated the law together, that’s why I have resigned while awaiting my just punishment, and that’s why I expect him to do the same as well.”
However, this point seemed beyond the senators’ grasp. They confined their questioning to Purisima’s “failure to coordinate with the military” and with Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas and acting PNP Chief Espina, whom Aquino had previously cut out of the loop. Aquino could have ensured “coordination with the military” by simply adhering strictly to the established chain of command instead of outsourcing everything to the suspended PNP chief.
But this was not—this is not—-the real issue. The real issue, which the public expected the Senate inquiry to resolve, was “why did the operational command fail to send reinforcement” after the commandos were pinned down by enemy fire, and had begun crying for reinforcement? Despite the SAF’s alleged failure to coordinate with the military, a light armored brigade was reported to have been standing by, a few kilometers from the killing zone, ready to roll in. But at the last minute it was ordered to stand down. Why?
This report, quoting highly informed sources, and repeated several times over in this space, has never been denied nor denounced. Again and again, we have asked, who ordered the stand-down? Where was the President, and what was he doing at the time? Was he in the middle of some important meeting, waiting for Purisima’s latest feed, or was he in fact watching the operation in Mamasapano by means of images fed to him in Zamboanga City by a drone?
From all accounts, this is what appears to have happened. On his late mother’s 82nd birth anniversary (on January 25), when his sisters were supposed to gather and offer a Mass in her memory in Manila, he chose to be in Zamboanga City. What was the supreme importance of being there on that day when he should have been with his only family celebrating an important anniversary? Did he not, in fact, go there expecting to watch the Mamasapano operation, and cheer its expected success from his listening post? As we said before, he went there to oversee the operation by remote control, and it was what he did. He alone could have given the order to stand down, and he gave it. If he did not, he alone could have reversed and cancelled the order, if somebody else did. This is where the back of the camel breaks.
Yet this critical issue was never touched. This was the biggest crime at the hearing, beyond all the lies coming from those trying to protect Aquino from himself. The Senate terminated its hearings after finding Purisima and Napenas “accountable for the SAF’s failure to coordinate with the military.” But the case against Aquino remains wide open; they just can’t shove it under the rug.
In Memoriam. I ask the pious reader to offer a prayer of thanks for the long life the Lord gave to Dr. Jack Wilke, founder and longtime president of the International Right to Life Federation, who was called home to the Father in Cincinnati this week. Jack was a very dear friend who, with his wife Barbara, who passed on earlier, led the worldwide pro-life and pro-family movement for most of his life. Thanks.