WHEN do you say an event is a dud? Who gets to say it is a dud? In the scheme of things, a dud means “a bomb, shell, or explosive round that fails to detonate, or one that is disappointingly ineffective or unsuccessful.” Was former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s effort to reopen the Mamasapano inquiry in the Senate, after a year since the unfortunate event, a dud? Was he able to present proof about the complicity of the President in what appears now to be a “suicide mission” of SAF troops last January 25, 2015 to secure a known terrorist, Zulkiflibin Hir, alias Marwan?
What did Enrile say as justification for re-opening the hearing? “I would like to make it on record that I have evidence: One, that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, was actively and directly involved in the planning and preparations of Oplan Exodus; two, that on the day of the actual operations, he was monitoring the operations while he was on his plane going to Zamboanga City; and three, that while the operations were going on, and Special Action Forces were being slaughtered, he did not do anything at all to save them.”
Clearly, Enrile was able to establish a year after, that: 1) there was a break in the chain of command; 2) the President was dealing with a suspended PNP Chief and a resigned former DILG Undersecretary, both acting as advisers to the President; 3) the AFP was compromised; 4) the full operations were done by texts from private cell phones; 5) key officials such as the Defense secretary and the Interior and Local Government secretary were out of the loop and such condition was all right for the President as well as the two top security officials; 6) the AFP and the PNP are functionally and operationally in silos mode; 7) since the AFP was not included in the plan, they would not assist in any SOS call made by the PNP; 8) the US was involved (finally) in the operation; 9) the President knew of US involvement and 10) the animosity between the AFP and Napenas was still there as proved by the prepared PowerPoint presentation of the AFP directed solely against the now retired Napenas.
The issue of compartmentalization as well as the lack of CSW were glaring a year after. That the President was dealing from start to finish with an “incompetent” officer in Napenas was mind boggling to even consider. The hearing also gave context and connected the dots with the re-opening. During the hearing, you saw the quarterbacking skills in the drama: 1) Enrile was being pressured in terms of time; 2) the AFP was insisting on presenting their PowerPoint presentation; 3) clearing operations made by Senate president Frank Drilon when he said nothing in the testimony showed that the President actively participated in the planning of Oplan Exodus. Another by Sen. TG Guingona when he added that the President merely acted based on the information provided to him by Napeñas, which turned out to be wrong (a very damaging statement to his President). And Sen. Sonny Angara, asking all heads of the uniformed force as well as the civilian officials on the supposed “stand down” order by the President. The so-called audit report on Oplan Exodus was not even presented in the hearing.
Immediately, Malacañang went to town concluding the hearing was a dud. Almost all traditional and news media went to town saying the Enrile effort was weak because of some backroom bargaining to free some people associated with him. Then some articles started harping about the sudden physical strength of the soon-to-be 92 year old legislator who was released on bail by the Supreme Court on health and age considerations. Immediately, too, media operators buried the story. The re-opening was not even top story in the early news. By late news, it was not even top 3. But days after, Inquirer, on January 30, had a headline saying, “US aided SAF raiders only,” relying on a “copy of the transcript of the minutes of the joint committee investigation’s closed-door session on Feb. 12, 16, 17, 23 and 24, 2015.” The release of the transcript was supposedly made after 16 senators approved the release of the transcript. Interestingly, during the re-opening, some senators were invoking national security in discussing publicly the role of the Americans. Then on the following day, January 31, Inquirer again had the banner: “US violated no treaty,” quoting Senate president Drilon as saying “the US had nothing more to explain on its role in the counterterrorism operation in Maguindanao.
Indeed, the Enrile offensive, a year after was a dud, as Malacañang and the yellow tribe immediately painted it without thinking of the repercussions: 1) 44 SAF commandos–35 from the 55th SAC and 9 from the 84th SAC–were killed in the clash, 17 MILF rebels and 3 civilians were also killed or a total of 64 Filipinos; 2) the willingness to sacrifice lives and the peace process because of Marwan was too glaring not to see; and 3) the commander-in-chief decided to just involve Purisima, his advisers and Napenas and set aside Gazmin and Roxas, and he froze upon learning of the bloodbath. When a leader is in the war room and all options are not laid on the table for an executive decision, you wonder if lives truly matter.
And you think it is a dud, too? The ghost of Mamasapano will be out and about in this election year. Do remember what Sun Tzu said: “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” As the old generals would often say: “alright men.” That dud you say now, is the Pandora box about to explode.