Six months after, still no closure on Mamasapano

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Six months after the Mamasapano incident on January 25, the nation and the families of the fallen SAF 44 still have to find closure in the tragedy. No cases have been filed against the perpetrators of the murder and officials who botched the operation. No court martial of a man in uniform has been ordered.

But the source of greatest dismay is the failure of official probers to establish the extent of President Aquino’s responsibility and accountability. At best, we have gotten Aquino’s vague acceptance of responsibility for what happened. When Sen. Grace Poe failed to ask him a single question in the Senate inquiry, when she declared that Aquino is “ultimately responsible,” and when she decided unilaterally not to make a report on the Senate inquiry, she cast the incident and the victims into limbo.

The process of forgetting the SAF 44 is inexorably moving forward.

When I wrote last Tuesday about Thomas Sowell’s view of the “presumption of innocence” principle, I had in mind the unanswered questions about presidential responsibility and accountability in the Mamasapano incident.


Many readers reacted positively to the column. Some were troubled by it. One said it degraded the presidency — which completely misses Professor Sowell’s point.

Sowell’s thesis is that it is dangerous to presume a sitting president innocent until proved guilty because his powers are vast and his duties are grave. The welfare of the people and the nation comes first.

The presumption of guilt with respect to a president’s conduct in office becomes clear when we apply it to the question of President Aquino’s responsibility or accountability in Mamasapano.

It offers a way to end the public’s uncertainty and confusion about presidential responsibility and accountability in the case. It allows people to focus on three facts that appeared to emerge from the televised inquiries:

First, President Aquino committed a huge mistake in naming a suspended PNP officer to direct and plan the SAF’s Mamasapano operation. This violated the PNP chain of command.

Second, Aquino dismally failed to order a rescue and reinforcement operation to save the beleaguered SAF units during the encounter. The hearings showed that he had all the time, and the units, and the information to issue the order. He froze before the responsibility.

Third, Aquino had command responsibility over the whole operation because he was involved in discussions of the operation from planning to execution.

Most Filipinos will not wait for a court trial to heap blame on Aquino for his actions and inaction in the incident. He is responsible on the face of the facts and circumstances.

In Sowell’s view, Aquino’s accountability is inherent in his duties as commander in chief and president.

This point becomes clearer when we take into account the meanings of the inter-related concepts of responsibility, accountability and authority.

Responsibility—Responsibility denotes the duty assigned to a position in an organization. The person holding the position has to perform the duty assigned. It is his responsibility. The term responsibility is often referred to as an obligation to perform a particular task assigned to an officer or subordinate.

According to one scholar, “Responsibility is an obligation of an individual to perform assigned duties to the best of his ability.”

It is hard to conceive of responsibility without authority, so it’s important to understand the meaning of the concept of authority.

Authority—Authority is the right or power assigned to an executive or a manager in order to achieve certain organizational objectives.

A manager will not be able to function efficiently without proper authority. According to one expert: “Authority is the right to give orders and the power to exact obedience.”

Accountability—In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. Accountability is the liability created for the use of authority. It is the answerability for performance of the assigned duties.

The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions.

Applying these concepts to the Mamasapano incident, we can conclude the following:

Aquino had the authority in the operation. He exercised it in approving the operation. He failed to exercise his authority when he failed or refused to order rescue and reinforcement operations.

Aquino is responsible because of his position as commander-in-chief. He is first in the chain of command of the Philippine National Police.

Aquino is accountable as the official who ordered the operation, and as the official who failed to order rescue and support operations for the men he sent into action.

The fateful commingling of powers and duties in the person of President Aquino makes him both responsible and accountable in the Mamasapano incident.

The claim that he was lied to by leaders and planners of the operation does not wipe away the blame.

The incompetence and cowardice of probers does not absolve him of blame.

Thus, the onus in this tragic affair falls on President Aquino. It is he who must prove his innocence. And he must live with his failure in this tragic affair.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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17 Comments

  1. armando flores on

    The president now is the son of a former president. The next aspiring one is a grandson of a former president. The challenger in the person of binay has no ascendant that lived and ruled in malacanang before. He does not belong to the elite. Binay if ever he wins the 2016 presidential elections would surely be ousted by the ruling class of the filipino society who does not believe in democracy just what they did to bonifacio, marcos and erap.

  2. Odnalor Obirt on

    So many things said how bad our President Pnoy and I agreed to all those comments. How can we avoid having another brainless president like him who has no love to his own people and just believe to the people surrounding him? Pnoy was graciously brainwashed by people like Ging Deles, Miriam Colonel Ferrer, AKA Iqbal, Alan Purisima, et al. He(Pnoy) has no capability to think logically which is very important to be an effective president. HIs records showed that he sponsored no Legislative Bill when he was a congressman and later a senator. It is mind-bungling why the Filipinos voted for him. IS IT BECAUSE HIS FATHER WAS ASSASINATED IN THE FORMER MIA? CAN ANYONE TRUELY CLAIM THAT NINOY AQUINO DID ANY HEROIC DEEDS AS A FILIPINO WHEN HE WAS STILL ALIVE?

    • Leodegardo Pruna on

      It is really a pity that the name of Ninoy is being drag by Noynoy’s inaction and incompetence. God bless the Philippines.

  3. Prematurely hailed for the Senate Inquiry on the Massacre in Mamasapano,
    Senator Poe, naturalized Pilipino, chooses to sweep the issue under the rug.
    Anything for political ambitions, she and the Estradas aka Ejercitos deserve each other.

  4. Leadership Principles in the Military
    1.Be technically and tactically proficient.
    2.Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
    3.Know your men and look our for their welfare.
    4.Keep your men informed.
    5.Set the Example
    6.Ensure the Task is understood, Supervised and Accomplished.
    7.Train your men as a Team
    8.Make sound and timely decisions.
    9.Develop a sense of Responsibilitbin your subordinates.
    10.Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities.
    11.Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for your Actions.

    Leadership Traits.
    1.Justice
    2.Judgement
    3.Dependability
    4.Initiative
    5.Decisiveness
    6.Tact
    7.Integrity
    8.Enthusiasm
    9.Bearing
    10.Unselffishness
    11.Courage
    12.Knowledge
    13.Loyalty
    14.Endurance

    • I Remember... on

      100% understood and agreed. But this cannot be understood by a s s h o l l e s. I am afraid the yellow crooks only believe in money and power to make more money, even if lives of soldiers are stupidly lost.

  5. Is there not a disconnect within Abnoy’s bbl, talks, links with deles and ferrer, et al and his orders to Purisima to serve warrants via the PNP to obtain the 2 bombers with rewards on their heads? If abnoy had common sense enough, he could have used the diplomacy links of deles, ferrer and even leonen so as to obtain the above 2 bomb expert-terrorists. And, should there be surrender feelers as a result of such link(s), confiden would have been built, bloodshed and 44 + deaths could have been pre-empted.Discernibly, the SAF forces were armed, in full battle gear, so on whose command responsibility would it fall? Obviously, BSA’s!

  6. genesisbughaw on

    Sir Yen,

    ” As the famous remark by the plotter of treachery in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI shows – “The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers,” – the surest way to chaos and tyranny even then was to remove the guardians of independent thinking.

    (from THINKING LIKE A LAWYER)

    The argument of this remark as in fact being favorable to lawyers is a marvel of sophistry, twisting of the meaning of words in unfamiliar source, disregard of the evident intent of the original author and ad hominem attack. Whoever first came up with this interpretation surely must have been a lawyer. ”

    It’s a fact. If you are surrounded by lawyers and the one at the helm is pgymy in his ability to comprehend or think clearly, well, it’s a national disaster!

    Justice for SAF 44!

  7. Accountability, Authority, Responsibility, Transparency and Inclusivity? Alam ni Aquino ang mga ito. Alam niyang bigkasin at ang mga spelling. Hindi nga lang niya maintindihan na ang mga ito ay guiding principles of leadership in the context of administrative power hierarchy.
    Parang broken record pero there is a value in repetition. Ano ba ang defining character ng claimed presidency (lower key ang letter “p” to denote a stolen Presidency) ni Mr. Aquino? Among others, they are: transactional, inclusive yet exclusive (inclusive sa KKK yet exclusive for others), incompetence, bribery, apathy, lying (like unending claim of reforms where there is none that is capable of advancing the interest of general welfare), absence of strategic, transformational focus in sync with the Quality of Life mandate in the Constitution.
    Kaya sa susunod na pagpili ng Presidente, huwag lang yung kandidato ang tignan. Tignan din ang mga nakapaligid. Like this current one. Who are they? They are: Abad, Purisima, Alcala, Roxas, Abaya, Deles, Soliman, De Lima, etc. What and where are we today, mga Kababayan? Be the Judge.

  8. It appears PNoy is dliberately stalling the outcome so as not to disrail his masterpiece – the BBL. Shame.

    How can people vote for someone to become a president of this nation when he being a DILG Secretary, would not do something about this and instead just go along the wishes of his president. Shame.

    How can people vote for that Senator to become president or vice-president of this nation when she cannot even bring her commitee’s report to Senate as a whole? She was very vocal on this before, then why is she quiet now (after meeting with PNoy).
    Was she promised something? Shame again.

  9. Mar Padilla, Jr. on

    As Commander-In-Chief, he should be Court Martial. If he is found guilty, then he should take the verdict. This way people aspiring for President should think twice, because you are covered both and tried by court Martial by the AFP and then by Civilian Court for any Ciriminal responsibility, and accountability.

  10. Aquino’s failure on many things; DAP, PDAF scandals, MRT/LRT/PNR mess, uncontrolled high prices of commodities due to corrupt DA officials, inadequate infrastructures, oligarch friends controlling government utilities, wasting of billions of pesos in CCT program and the Mamasapano tragedy will overshadow his achievements in the fields of economic improvements although it is common knowledge that our OFW’s remittances is always the big factor in our country’s dollar earnings and not from our fledgling and neglected export industry. However, in his coming last SONA, as usual all his yellow army will flood the halls of the House of Congress to applaud and shout praises to his lies on Abnoy’s last hurrah!

  11. There will never be justice for the deaths in Mamasapano because the President and the Secretary of Justice to name a few are not fit for their jobs and their interests conflicts with what is just.

    • sonny dela cruz on

      What is a Secretary of Justice for if you cannot get justice at all. No cases have been filed against the killers of Mamasapano. The brain of the STAND-OUT not to rescue the SAF 44, the Generals who lied about the true situations. Those people involved around the president who lied that they don’t know anything of what’s happening in Mamasapano. Why the Secretary of Justice hasn’t file any cases against them. She should be INDEPENDENT in filing cases against them. Who cares if he is the president, if he violated the law a case should be filed against him. Sometimes the immunity of the president should be reviewed because, he can do it intentionally to violate the law but because of immunity he/she cannot be tried for the violation. Impeachment will not stand alone because the president has already bribe them, so each one of them will not impeach the president in return. IF DE LIMA RUNS FOR SENATOR, DON’T EVER VOTE FOR HER BECAUSE SHE WILL NOT SERVE THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AS WHAT SHE IS DOING NOW, JUST SERVING THE INTEREST OF THE PRESIDENT.

  12. This is just another example of a tried and true methodology here in the Philippines. Drag things out in paralyzing reviews and hearings until the electorate forgets, then do nothing. I suppose we deserve the government we elect. I will acknowledge the Manila Times efforts to keep the electorate focused, but the electorate appears to be more interested in whether Bong Bong and Poe have the same sire. Sad.

  13. P.Akialamiro on

    The whole situation is attributable to a “sad sack” (leader); a person who means well but is incompetent, ineffective, (insensitive), etc., and is consistently in trouble,