First of two parts
The arbitrary decision of the Supreme Court to amend the Constitution in order to proclaim Grace Poe-Llamanzares a natural- born citizen left me wondering about when we Filipinos voted to authorize CJ Sereno and her justice cohorts to rewrite the Constitution. We did not.
Truly, this abomination will haunt the court and the nation for years unless exorcised.
Alas, this abomination is not the only hoax perpetrated on our people and our country by Grace Poe and her partners and financiers.
In this two-part series, I report the research finding that Senators Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Francis Escudero perpetrated a series of deceptions on the nation in the conduct of the Senate inquiry into the tragic events in Mamasapano, and in the writing of the Senate’s joint committee report.
It appears that their plot on the presidency was launched when they hijacked the Senate’s Mamasapano inquiry, and manipulated the writing of the Senate committee report.
Hijacking the Senate inquiry
Control of the Senate’s Mamasapano inquiry was wrested by Poe and Escudero when they succeeded in placing the committees they chaired (the committee on public order of Senator Poe and the committee on finance of Senator Escudero) at the forefront of the inquiry.
The two senators rushed the Senate into opening the inquiry, with themselves as chief probers, even though there was support for a joint House-Senate inquiry and wide public clamor for an independent inquiry by a special commission created by Congress, similar to the commissions that probed the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the events of 9/11. We can now only wonder about how an independent commission might have hastened the achievement of closure, which we still pine for.
Poe and Escudero performed like a wrestling.tag team during the hearings, picking each other up whenever either one faltered. They were running mates even then, milking public attention at public expense on a matter of grave national importance.
For Senator Poe, it was her debut in the spotlight. She who was a tabula rasa in public affairs got an opportunity to fill in the blanks. She did not waste the opportunity.
Three major deceptions
In preparing the Senate committees’ report and an executive summary of the report, Senators Poe and Escudero deceived the Senate and the nation three times.
First, the Executive summary of the joint committee report, which Senator Poe presented to the media and the public on March 17, 2015, is not a summary of the committee report at all.
The summary’s key message and sound bite — that President Benigno BS Aquino III is “ultimately responsible” for the Mamasapano tragedy — is nowhere to be found in the committee report. Yet the public was made to believe that it was the main conclusion of the inquiry.
Second, there is a marked difference in substance and wording between the committee report and the summary – with the report reading like a serious and fair summation of the hearings, and the executive summary reading like a talking points memo.
While the report concluded that President Aquino needed to exercise leadership and admit mistakes in connection with the Mamasapano Massacre, the executive summary settled for declaring him “ultimately responsible.” Third, the verdict of ultimate responsibility, which is not a typical finding of Philippine legislative inquiries, was evidently copied from one inquiry and report in the US congress.
Together, they add up to a level of dishonesty and deception never before seen in the Philippine Senate.
Let’s turn now to the evidence.
Exhibit A – Executive summary of committee report
The executive summary consists of 12 pages.
“Ultimately responsible” made its first appearance in our public life at the media conference called by Senator Poe on 17 March 2015. Today happens to be the first anniversary of this invention of Senator Poe.
At the media briefing, the senator read passages from the executive summary of what was then described as a “draft committee report on the Mamasapano incident.”
The key passage from page 5 of the summary reads as follows:
“The Mamasapano incident raises serious questions about whether the President, as well as some other high-ranking officials of the government, could have done more to minimize the number of deaths which resulted from the incident….
“Perhaps, if the President and the key security officials who were with him in Zamboanga City discussed the incident and shared information with each other at the early stages of the day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives would have been lost.
“As the Commander-in- Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, the President exercises supreme operational command of the nation’s military forces. The President also controls all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He wields the awesome powers of government, and has its vast resources at his disposal.
“The President’s decision not to use these resources at that instance, must be explained by him. The President is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the mission.”
The committee report was not released to the media and the public that day. Only the summary was circulated.
Exhibit B–Senate joint committee report
The Senate Committee report on Mamasapano consists of 129 pages. It is simply titled “The Committee report on the Mamasapano incident.”
It began by describing the Mamasapaano tragedy as just an incident. Then midway, it shifted to calling it a “massacre.”
The important findings and conclusions of the committee report can be found on pages 119 to 129.
The passages most directly related to Senator Poe’s executive summary read as follows:
“Perhaps, if the president and the key security officials who were with him in Zamboanga City discussed the incident in Mamasapano and shared information with each other at the early stages of the day, coordination between the Army and the PNP might have been hastened and fewer lives would have been lost.
“As the commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, the President exercised supreme operational command of the nation’s military forces. The President also controls all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He wields the awesome powers of government, and has its vast resources at his disposal. The President’s decision, as well as that of his men, not to use their resources at that instance, must be explained….”
Note how the paragraph does not end with the finding of “ultimate responsibility” of President Aquino, as it did in the executive summary.
The report’s strongest words on President Aquino can be found on page 126. They read: “At this crucial time in our history, it is imperative that the President display unquestionable leadership, be forthright and candid with our people, accept responsibility for all decisions he makes as President, and admit the mistakes that have been committed with the Mamasapano massacre.”
The wording and conclusion here is different from Senator Poe’s executive summary.
The full report, all 129 pages of it, is much better and more tough-minded than we were led to believe.
Inspiration from US Congress
I am critical of the Poe-Escudero conduct and manipulation of the Senate’s Mamasapano inquiry and report because it involves a national tragedy that had inflicted a deep wound on our national life. It caused great anguish and pain to many families across the archipelago. Our people looked to the official inquiries to help in bringing closure to the tragedy.
The Senate inquiry exacerbated the anguish by engaging in deception.
The tragedy was exploited rather than closed.
My next column will disclose the US Congress committee report, which apparently gave Senator Poe the inspiration for “ultimately responsible.”