Tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself

29

This is the counsel of historians and legal luminaries to American presidents when they must face a major scandal or political crisis.

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By heeding its wisdom, a leader can theoretically make a bad story better through a policy of rigorous disclosure and honesty. He will surely make things worse by lying and covering up the facts and blaming others in a given crisis.

This approach to damage control in the midst of crisis are the subject of two fine books from the oven of Washington D.C:

1.When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Dception and its Consequences, by Eric Alterman (Viking, 2004).

2. Truth to Tell, notes from my white house Education, by Lanny J. Davies (the Free press, 1999).

Davies, former legal counsel to President Clinton, coined the epigram cited in my title. He ought to know; he helped extricate Clinton from multiple scandals.

Alterman is a senior fellow of The World Policy Institute, a university professor and a columnist. In his book, he discusses the lies, scandals and crises that nearly felled the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Ronald Reagan.

44 deaths, more casualties
Coming down to our current predicament here at home, I must say that it’s not a pleasant subject to contemplate and study. The leader in the arena is not sterling.

So far, there are 44 PNP-SAF deaths recorded in the Mamasapano incident. But that count doesn’t include the civilians and of course the deaths on he enemy side. As the facts are coming out from the ongoing inquiries, it’s increasingly apparent that there will be more casualties, some physical and some institutional. Some of these could be:

1. The trust and cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), which I hope will be repaired soonest.

2. The leadership of both the AFP and the PNP, wherein changes are probably fated.

3. The presidency of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd, which many are trying to salvage through a cover-up of Mamasapano, and which others hope will perish on the altar of SAF 44.

4. The Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is under study in Congress and has been hammered hard in the aftermath of the massacre.

Aquino evades serious damage control
In dealing with the Mamasapano crisis, President Aquino has evaded every part of the lesson on damage control:

• First, he was four days late in addressing the crisis and telling the nation about it.

• Second, when Aquino talked twice about the incident, he was niggardly and evasive in explaining his role, and in discussing his responsibility as president and commander-in-chief.

• Finally, he has avoided telling the story himself. He has left to others the task of telling the story. Indeed, he hopes other guys would take the blame (serve as fall guys).

The multiple inquiries, instead of bringing out the truth has thrown up confusing narratives that lead the public away from the central story of who authorized and ordered Operation Exodus, who committed the crimes during the incident, why was the AFP unable to provide rescue and assistance, and why the restraints of an existing ceasefire and peace agreement did not work to prevent atrocities from being committed.

Aquino told story, others clammed up
From the narrative that has come out in some media reports, as early as Sunday morning of Jan 25, President Aquino already knew about the result of the Mamasapano operation, which left 44 police commandos dead. And he has disclosed this.

This is evident from Aquino’s speech before the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force officers on Jan 30, wherein he revealed that he knew that the PNP-SAF were able to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” that morning.

He said:

“Simula pa noong Linggo, umaga pa lang, sinabihan na ako ng naging resulta nitong kay Marwan. Tapos habang sinisayat namin ang pagbobomba sa Zamboanga, dumarating ang mga report,” (starting from Sunday moning, I was already told about the result of the operation against Marwan. After wards, while we were assessing the thebombing in Zamboanga, other reports came.)

But then comes a major wrinkle in the Administration’s narrative.

On Thursday, Feb 12, during the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang all said they did not inform Aquino right away about the Mamasapano clash, reasoning that they did not see any urgency.

Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima did not give a responsive answer when asked if he informed Aquino about the outcome of the Mamasapano operation. He said that he needed to seek clearance first from the President.

Song of the generals
Later, on questioning about why reinforcements were not provided to the SAF commandos, the inquiry finally got some answers.

Senator Bongbong Marcos drew from the generals involved in assessing the Mamasapano situation some revealing, even disturbing, answers:

As early as in the Monday hearing, General Catapang expressed a most disturbing position on providing reinforcements and support to the beleaguered SAF commandos. He said:

“In as much as we have a peace process we don’t want to endanger these things. If we attacked the MILF they might think that we’re back at war. We don’t want that to happen. Like fire, if it’s not contained we might have skirmishes not only in Lanao del sur but in the whole Central Mindanao.”

Not forgetting what Catapang had already said, Marcos pinned him down on Thursday. He asked our chief of staff whether he gave priority to the peace process over the lives of the SAF commandos in the field. He got a rueful assent from Catapang.

It got worse. 6th Infantry Division Commander Gen. Eduardo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th infantry Division, declared that if ordered to fire by President Aquino on rebel positions, he still would not order his forces. Not even the commander-in-chief himself would make him budge.

With respect to the President’s participation in discussions about sending reinforcements to Mamasapano, Western Mindanao Commander, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, confirmed the information that the Commander-in-Chief had given instructions to the Army ground commander that said: “Okay just try your best. But don’t endanger yourselves.”

Our people ask, if PNoy said yes, why then were reinforcements not ordered in?

We are looking here at possible courts-martial down the road, to say nothing of firings and resignations.

Have we heard the worst?
As we brace ourselves for more hearings, let’s pray that we have already heard the worst about the quality of generalship in our armed forces and police forces today.

The historian Barbara Tuchman, in a famous lecture on generalship, reminds us that physical courage must be joined by intelligence.

As a Chinese proverb puts it, “a general who is courageous and stupid is a calamity.”

Did we have this kind of calamity in Mamasapano?

The thought is scary.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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29 Comments

  1. Aquino, Gazmin, Catapang, Guerrero, Deles/Ferrer, et. al, choose Peace with the Moros WITHOUT HONOR. It’s plain COWARDICE.

  2. Pedro Kanluran on

    From the point of view of a low profile elderly person what our country needs is a RIGHTEOUS LEADERSHIP,
    he mentioned that ;
    “The crisis in the world today,is a crisis of leadership; and the crisis in leadership,is a crisis of character.”(Howard Hendricks)
    The ongoing investigations and inquiries on the Fallen 44 have exposed the real crisis we are in.Who is telling the truth? Who do we trust? Where does the buck stop?
    One says,”I was not informed.”
    Another says,”I just gave an advice,not an order.”
    And when someone says,”I am responsible,”no one believes him.Whose word should we take?
    “If a ruler listens to lies,all his officials become wicked”(Prov.29:12).
    When the righteous triumph,there is great elation;but when the wicked rise to power,men go into hiding”(Prov.28:12; 29:2).
    May God bless our nation with righteous leadership and good governance.
    Let this be our earnest prayer these days.
    “God have mercy on us.”

  3. victor m. hernandez on

    Definitely, yes to your punchloine query. What’s even worse, the generalship exhibited both cowardice and stupidity. They felt paralyzed, and rather contemplate what’s hapening on the ground in their frozen minds and hearts, and retreat to their comfort zones in the company of their clueless and equally paralyzed commander-in-chief.
    And the automatons of the Peace Process Panel continued with their signing of arms decommisioning. What an irony, surreal and disconnect.The generals and the peace negotiators should have the honor to submit their resignations to the Filipino people, repeat, to the Filipino people.

  4. Tell it all – that’s the hardest part. That would mean treason, once the president steps down. Tell it yourself – his unmitigated arrogance would not let him admit his mistakes. Tell it early – he has violated it early already.

  5. I’m just wondering how precy aquino felt / reacted when pangilinan boasted arrogantly and openly insulted the so called president that he , the subordinate of officials (of higher levels) will not obey even if the president orders him

    From his (gen, pangilinan ) own admission, he should be dragged out ASAP and face COURT MARCIAL … akala ko ba lack of proper coordination kaya hindi nya na -rescue at hinayaan na lang nyang katayin mga halimaw lahat 44-saf. TO0 YOU general pangilinan U’RE A DISGRACE in the most honorable organization of the land ,,,,IF YOU THE GENERAL DO NOT OBEY THE PRESIDENT’ S ORDER THEN WHO WILL???????? HERE, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ORDER TO SAVE THE REMAINING LIVES OF OUR BROTHERS WHO ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED BY THE ENEMIES (who could have been saved BY THE BATTALIONS UNDER YOUR COMMAND ,, WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO BE READY ALL THE TIME..READINESS / TIME ELEMENT HAS BEEN HAMMERED IN EVERY TRAINEE’S HEAD PRIOR TO BECOMING COMBATANT. ….TAMA LANG pala na KAMUHIAN / SISIHIN KA NG PNP… hoy, GEN. ESPINA HUWAG KA PAU-UTO SA MGA DUWAAAAAG na yan … Makakarma rin mga YAN ‘KITA NILA . GEN. CATAPANG,, WALA KA SILBI KAILAN MO GAGAMITIN YUNG TINURO SA YO SA PMA??? SAYANG LANG PAGPAPA-ARAL GOBERNU SA YU … HOOOOOY MGA MATA NG MGA 44-SAF NA PINAKATAY NINYUNG LIMA NINAPRECY aquino, napena , puring at pangitlinan at cyempre si ikaw… catapa nakatingin lahat sila SA INYU from ABOVE … akala ko pa naman catapang na NAPAKA tapang .. SAKSAKAN KA PALA KADUWAGAN … CGE MAGSINUNGALING BOLAHIN AT IYALIS YO MGA ALIPUSPUS NG MGA SENADOR (investigator)… anyway, years after , lalantad kayu at sasabihin ninyu na yu were forced / pressured na magsinungalin AT VOILA… ABSUELTO KAYO KAGAYA NI MANCAU

  6. What does our military policy say about following a wrongful order, like participating in a coup? Isn’t an order to abandon your men to the dogs a wrongful order?

  7. Napenas the SAF chief, should have done everything including leading the reinforcement effort himself personally, but he chose his career over his men. Now his career just went up in smoke, and he lost 44 of his men. He is definitely not courageous, he is also stupid.

  8. That is the problem with lying. You have to remember the lie and all made-up facts about the lie. Plus, other people who have any role to play in the lie, has to be consistent in issuing pronouncements and statements, which should always support the lie and the made-up facts.
    By the way, the DNA tests of Marwan’s finger may have tested positive as belonging to Marwan. But where is the body? Is the body alive, but with a lost finger?

  9. IN CASE WAR ERUPTS IN MINDANAO, CAN WE SIMPLY AFFORD OR TAKE IT. SIGE MGA BRIGHT MINDS, KAYONG NAG SUSULSUL GIVE US A BETTER OR EVEN A REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE. WHY NOT LET THE AFFECTED PEOPLE IN THE 5 PROVINCES REALLY VOTE. DI MANANALO ANG BBL, BUT AT LEAST IT CAN BE SHOWN INTERNATIONALLY THAT IT WAS GIVEN A CHANCE.

  10. Our nation witnessed how these generals true to its sense became “General Problem of the Philippines”. They do not have the moral scruples that their own military institution is falling down brick by brick because of their incompetence and lies. They should be court martial and shot one by one for their treason, in that way their Institution may redeem their luster.

  11. Baka naman ang philosophy ni PNoy is “True Lies” ala Arnold?
    Kaya lang hindi lahat sumunod sa script.

  12. We can never attain the truth to the Mamasapano mission that resulted to the deaths of 44 SAFs if Gen Purisima, Gen Napenas, Gen Catapang, Gen Guerrero and Gen Pangilinan are lying. They are part of the loop to a cover-up to save the bungling President, who has no heart to save the lives of his combatants blinded by his ambition of a legacy for a peace deal exclusively to one rebel party MILF only thinking the next President will repeat another peace deal with the new rebel that is the BIFF and who knows another rebel faction will come out for another peace pact again with a new President and so forth and so on. Every President will deal with different peace pacts with different favored rebel leader like Ramos with Misuari and Aquino with Iqbal and next President with Kato also?

    • LISTEN MY FRIEND … NA MASSACRE MGA KAWAWANG 44-SAF all because precy aquino is incompetent at DUWAAAG HINDI lang sa pagka precy nya .. KAYA NGA SINGLE YAN hanggang ngayun dahil guess what? whaaaaaat ? sirit… SABI ni precy aquino nuun kay Shalani ,,,
      My Dearest Shalani,
      I PROMISE to come visit you this Saturday .I’ll overcome anything whatever it takes just to see you my love . Again, I PROMISE . I WILL CROSS THE WIDEST RIVER ,, I WILL CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN
      … AGAIN , JUST TO SEE YOU MY LOVE ..

      N. B.
      BUT, Shalani my love, I WILL NOT COME IF IT RAINS THIS SATURDAY …

      OO nga naman baka ngay STRONG ANG CURRENT O kaya some other factors that will make simyon to STAND DOWN …he…he…he KORNY BA…. NASIRA NA KASI PAGKATA-U KU KAPAPANU-UD AT KADIDINIG SA IMBESTIGASYUN .. Mabuti sana kung si Mirriam Defensor O KAYA SI MARCOS NAGSASALITA O NAGTATANUNG … PURO BULLS EYE … MABUHAY MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO

    • HOY KOKIS HWAG MO MAI-KUMPA-KUMPARA SI precy aquino kay GMA DAHIL TANDAAN MO ITO …. DURING THE HEIGHT OF GMA ‘s MILITARY encounter with the muslims in mindanao , GMA gave her ROARING ORDER ….”PULBUSIN” !!!!! PINATAY YUNG MOST WANTED NA TERRORSIT AAAANNNND LISTEN TO THIS… NOT ONE OF THE CAPTORS / soldiers WERE HARMED IN ANYWAY … DID U HEAR ME ??? WALA NI ISA NAGALUSAN … KAYA NGAYUN IBALIK SI MARCOS sa tutu-u lang .. magisiiiiiiiip mga KABAYAN .. we NEED A LEADER / PRESIDENT na hindi natutulala , nawawala, natataranta at ngumingisi ngisi habang nag iispitch habang kinakarga mga mutilated bodies mga anak nya kuno …AT HIGIT SA LAHAT, WE NEED A LEADER / COMMANDER IN CHIEF WHO WILL PROTECT HIS MEN /CITIZENS WHO ARE ENTRUSTED TO HIM (palibhasa FAKE YUNG BINILANG NA VOTES).. STAND DOWN DAW …PUWEEEH!!! AALIS DYAN MAMAW .. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LIVE IN FEAR FOR 17-MONTHS , TAMA NA SOBRA NA …

  13. It was unfortunate that Catapang chose peace process over the lives of the soldiers.
    He took a highly political position which has no place in military organization. It will take time to repair what has been imprinted in the minds of the PNP organization that its brothers in arm can sacrifice their lives for uncertain peace process. The event highlighted the fact that even AFP has been politicized like other government agencies.
    Best effort, do not endanger yourselves, stand down terms which mean weak and indecisive leadership. What is happening to our country.

  14. yes thats what happens when generals play politics
    in every illegal operation that goes bad they always shot it down and wrap it up, leave the foot soldier behind enemy lines and run for thier lives so unlucky the 44 didnt make it out alive, in that case thier death should not be blame on thier enemy

  15. Probably if we adhere to the deeper meanings of freedom which in some way: “Freedom is not only for the things we adore, but also for the things we abhor.” And guided by a way towards the TRUTH, by knowing that the Truth can be served in a free market of ideas if just let is that way.

  16. Is the heart of Archbishop Soc Villegas, prez of the CBCP, really so committed to the Yellow Army that he cannot speak out against the corruption, dishonesty and criminal self-interested governance of BS Aquino? Can’t he his Grace the Archbishop bring himself to obey the call of Justice and Compassion for the Filipino nation and restore normal though imperfect governance to the Filipinos?
    What about Archbishop Cardinal Tagle?
    Let us pray many Memorares and Acts of Contrition for opurselves and them and all the other bishops of our Church.

  17. Tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself maybe be a good advice but the problem is there is no size that fits it all.

    Every one knows that history, culture, religion, and even morality or the lack of it characterizes how politics works.

    In fact, I suspect that the delayed presidential explanation to the Mamasapano fire fight is simply following the Filipino style: Tatahimik ka lang, makalimutan din yan.

    Conversely, we are not a frank society.

  18. …KNOWING HOW VINDICTIVE PNOY IS, THESE GENERALS ARE PLAYING IT SAFE SO AS NOT TO JEOPARDIZE THEIR “PABAON” LATER ON COME RETIREMENT TIME!

  19. It is in the DNA of most Filipinos to lie, steal and take advantage when in power, from Barangay kagawad to President of the country,same breed. All they need to do is go church and ask for forgiveness. Hispanic way of salvation

    • Tama ka diyan Mr. Julian. Tignan mo mga kababayan natin. Noong dumating si Pope Francis kinuyog siya ng mga tao para magdasal at manalangin na sana mabawasan ang kanilang paghihirap sa kasalukuyan. Pero alam nila na ang pagiging incompetent at stupidities ng Pangulo ang mga kadahilanan ng kahirapan ng mga nakararami, bakit ayaw ng mga tao magprotesta para maituwid sana ang mga pagkakamali ng gobiyerno?

    • Justaskingseriously on

      Why include going to church and asking for forgiveness? That would be tantamount to admitting that they are corrupt. Besides, asking for forgiveness without saying exactly what it is they have done that needs to be forgiven is not really forgiven. They know that. So why even bother to ask for forgiveness? Going to church, yes. Pakitangtao. Pa pogi. Kaya walang mangyayari. Malamang mananalo pa sa eleksyon.

      Pero bakit tawag mo na ito ay hispanic way? Ito ay talagang evil way. Nothing hispanic about it. Evil is found in every culture. That is how the father of lies (da evil) inculturates itself for perpetuity. Sabi nga, if good people do nothing to stop evil, that in itself is a greater evil.