• The nation must choose: Truth commission or inquiry

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    ONE is grandiose, even Biblical (“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”, John 8-32). The other is plainspoken and to the point.

    Some senators and congressmen. with Sen. Teofisto Guingona in the lead, are batting loudly for the creation of a truth commission by Congress. They are so sure of the soundness of their idea, they are already nominating names for the commission before it is created. In a signal to President Aquino that he need not worry, the proposed probers are all known Aquino supporters and associates, who have served at one time or another in the Aquino administration.

    At the House of Representatives, congressmen led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte are batting for a joint inquiry by the House and the Senate. They don’t want an independent body; they want legislators to take the lead in questioning probable witnesses on live television.

    Meanwhile, there are two or three other investigations of the Mamasapano massacre already ongoing. Citizens are exasperated. Foreign observers are bewildered.

    This must not go on further. We’re not fun to look at at all.

    The nation must come to a decision, whether to pursue the truth commission scheme, or instead create an independent fact-finding body that will conduct a comprehensive inquiry.

    Country goes berserk with truth commisssion
    Whenever this country tries to create a truth commission, we are plunged into confusion and darkness.

    President Aquino made the creation of a truth commission his first order of business upon his inauguration on June 30, 2010. He wanted to put his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, behind bars. His commission by executive order was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

    In retaliation, Aquino moved heaven and earth to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

    This new attempt to establish a truth panel will be similarly debated no end. The Palace and Liberal party officials are for it because President Aquino will choose and appoint the members of the commission.

    To avert public suspicion and skepticism, and to ensure the body’s independence, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who appears to have finally found his voice, has opined that President Aquino should not appoint and choose the commission members.

    This paper was the first to take the position that Congress should create by law “a national commission to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the killing of 44 commandos and other persons in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.” We said that the body should be fully independent and invested with full powers to investigate and call anyone to give testimony.

    The Times suggested the 9/11 commisssion as a model for the law and the body’s work. It heard the testimonies of no less than two presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

    We are in confusion here because Aquino’s cohorts in Congress are worried for the President. They want to make sure that the commission’s investigation will go soft on him. That is why they want to load the panel with partisans and allies. That is also why Drilon jumped the gun by declaring Aquino innocent of any wrongdoing.

    This will grate on public opinion, so badly, that it will incense the populace and the police-military into even more open denunciation of the president, as the one responsible for the deaths of the SAF 44.

    Diplomats puzzled by truth panel
    Members of the diplomatic corps and foreign observers are puzzled why our legislators are so gung ho about the truth commission, if the proposed commission will be patterned after the seminal truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa.

    The truth commission in that country inaugurated a process for truth and reconciliation among all South Africans, black as well as white, so that the country could emerge from the dark history of apartheid.

    The South African process involved amnesty and forgiving offenses committed under apartheid. It was successful up to a point, enough to enable South Africa to move forward and stabilize its democracy. But up to now there are still questions and misgivings whether forgiveness was the way forward.

    If the proposed Mamasapano commission envisions amnesty and forgiveness for those who perpetrated the killings in Maguindanao, we could have a new explosion of violence to deal with.

    And it will truly be the end of Aquino’s treasured peace process and Bangsasmoro Basic Law.

    The clamor for truth and justice will not be muted.

    Inquiry usually the way to go
    It is seldom, I have learned, for governments to choose the truth commission formula in investigating a major incident or controversy.

    In England, the mother of parliaments, they choose to conduct an inquiry, under which the investigating magistrate is fully empowered to investigate and submit a report to parliament for action.

    They launch an inquiry whether the issue is a major controversy, like the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which caused the UK to join the invasion of Iraq. Or whether the issue is a humdrum one, like abuse of media freedom in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

    No less than prime minister Tony Blair was subjected to intensive questioning.

    When the Hutton inquiry submitted its report, the brouhaha settled down. Her Majesty’s realm got back to being the sceptered isle and the throne of kings.

    Inquiry will produce facts, not platitudes
    To conclude, a no-nonsense inquiry directed at getting to the bottom of the Mamasapano massacre is, in my view, the rational and right way to go. It is the one that will produce the facts, hear the testimony, and arrive at the correct conclusions that will enable us to move beyond this tragedy and our grief.

    Congress should create an independent fact-finding body, and invest it with full powers to investigate. And there should be no doubt that President Aquino himself will be among those whose testimony should be heard.

    The law may not include grandiose calls for truth and other platitudes. But this is the way a serious democracy tackles a tragedy as gruesome, heartbreaking and crushing as Mamasapano.

    Recovery from this affair must start here.

    yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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    13 Comments

    1. The senate and congress, Malacanang and AFP will make their own truth commission but in the end it will be called truth omission. Why not appoint Enrile, Jingoy and Bong to form the truth commission. This will guarantee us that they will come out with the truth. Televise the whole affair. The nation had to see for themselves. And I guarantee you that the report will be the truth.

    2. Vicente Penetrante on

      First order of business becomes the last. That is the Aquino story, the last episode being the beginning.

    3. An independent truth panel appointed by cardinal Tagle is much better.
      Questions shld be limited to no more than 6. Who were involved in planning operation wolverine; who approved the budget for the operation and what is the source of the budget release ?; what are the established timeline prior, during and after the operation? Who gave the go signal to proceed and when? Exactly where was the president at the time the operation was unfolding? Who were the personalities that the president talked to from 24 to 26 January 2015 — release telephone numbers called by the president during said period.

    4. The truth commission and board of inquiry is a dilatory tactic of the spin doctors of Pnoy. The people have already rendered judgement in this tragedy, Pnoy is guilty of negligence and his resignation is a must.

    5. Haaaayyyy Nakuuuuu! on

      Yen, thank you for your thoughts about this column: but before we forget, the award to the tune of six million dollars must be divided among the 44 families of the dead soldiers and the government from their own coffers must also provide adequate money and support for the wounded ones. Wala dapat mapunta ni kahit isang kusing na puwedeng nakawin ng mga Aquino and co., mahiya naman sila ano?

    6. A board of Inquiry, given the correct powers is a good idea. But, we know this congress will not create one, or they will create it with full powers and then insert one line like this: “Elected officials are exempt from all proceedings and findings”.

    7. Sadly no one has faith in any inquiry or investigation ,,,,,,,,,, what happened to jj
      Jessie Robredo ‘s documents nd plane. crash investigation other issues of the military being killed and butchered etc tec etcnothing happen s , no credibility … Even the supreme court modified a unanimous decision after pressure ……. God help us and save us

    8. Simple lang malaman ang puno’t dulo ng pagkapatay ng maraming SAF. Si Gen. Napenas lang ang nakakaalam kung sino ang nagplano at sino ang nag-utos na mag stand-down ang mga remaining SAF units at ang Army units na naka standby malapit sa area. Kung hindi siya magsabi ng tutoo ay walang mangyari sa lahat ng imbestigasiyon dahil baka matatakot siyang alisin ni Pnoy kung hindi ma whitewash ang ‘Probe’ to give way to the processing and passing of BBL, a coveted legacy for Pnoy.

    9. The inquiry propose herein should be adopted without haste to justify any action we should take as a consequence. And we should not let the option of force disregarded if needed for our national survival.. The great lesson of america is the civil war that ultimately matured that nation. The supporters of a Caliphate nations are using force for that purpose. Let us not be unmindful of these around the world.

    10. Picture Perfect! If the PNP/AFP launches a coup now, majority of the people will support it. STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT.

    11. We have to have “Truth Commission”, to heal and bind the nations’ wounds…again my heart sympathizes with those families of the falllen soldiers/police…I salute all military personnel who served courageously in Mindanao…they did their duty well.

    12. Truth Commission formed by Congress; you’re joking! Afgo is talking; let them “walk the talk.”

    13. Any credible personalities can be members of the committee as long as Binay is not included for he will use the committee for his political ambitions and corruption.