I am aware of this: that no words will suffice to explain the deaths of our brave policemen. A report or a speech can never reflect the entirety of what is felt by a parent who lost a good child. All I can do, after saying all that must be said, and after doing all that must be done, is to ask for your deep understanding.
–President Benigno Aquino 3rd at Philippine National Police Academy graduation
SHOULD the nation understand and not blame President Benigno Aquino 3rd for his actions in the bloody Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos, which has imperiled the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?
Yes, we should understand why Aquino botched the dangerous operation, insists on shirking blame, and keeps repeating his version of events despite contradictory facts.
First of all, let’s remember he never showed any aptitude or inclination for the presidency until after his mother died in August 2009. Then, suddenly, public sympathy and media exposure turned him from mediocre scion of fabled parents to frontrunner in election surveys.
Can we now blame him for continually failing in presidential leadership and intelligence, especially in crisis stiuations?
We chose a leader with zero track record
Aquino never managed an organization of note, as Fidel Ramos did as Armed Forces Chief and Secretary of National Defense, and Joseph Estrada as San Juan City mayor. He never authored any major policy legislation, as Gloria Arroyo did as senator for measures in agricultural modernization, trade liberalization, and privatization.
He certainly faced major crises: his father Ninoy’s incarceration and assassination, and the seven coup attempts against his mother Cory, including two bloody ones. In one he himself was wounded. But he never had to manage any of them.
Aquino’s lack of significant leadership experience, sophisticated policy expertise, and sound crisis management shows in Mamasapano. He risked the Mindanao peace process in a highly dangerous mission, then let a suspended PNP chief and a mid-level commander take charge. And when the going got rough, he lost nerve and poise, then scrambled to shift blame away from himself, as he did in other crises.
Thus, the nation now sees what we should have known from the start: Aquino was never presidential material. And for his repeated failings in leadership, we have only ourselves to blame for electing him. (Those who think he actually has done well as president should read the four-part article “Busting the Aquino myths”, found at http://www.manilatimes.net/custom-search/page/2/?search=RICARDO%20SALUDO.)
We cheered Aquino’s law-breaking
But some may argue that despite his lack of leadership and crisis experience, Aquino should have at least followed rules and made sure that all duly constituted authorities were involved and informed in the PNP Special Action Force mission.
Yes, Aquino should have known better. But then, if the public and the media have largely tolerated, if not celebrated his breaking of laws in the past four years, can he be blamed if he again played fast and loose with the rules in the SAF operation?
After all, Aquino got away with far more serious violations like bribing Congress, disregarding a Supreme Court restraining order, and spending billions of pesos in public funds on unbudgeted items.
If one could brazenly undermine the Constitution’s principle of separation of powers, break anti-bribery laws, and trash the Rules of Court on judicial orders, what’s the big deal about ignoring a mere suspension order from the Ombudsman or sidestepping the PNP chain of command?
Again, the nation showed little concern when Aquino flouted the law. Indeed, one top columnist even declared that Aquino would go down as the second-best Philippine president, and urged the Supreme Court to let him off the hook in the Disbursement Acceleration Program case, despite the writer’s view that DAP was illegal.
So let us please be understanding toward Aquino’s disregard of the Ombudsman’s ruling and the PNP command structure, and see where the real fault lies: the people and the media’s silence plus the cheering of a good number when the President made mincemeat of established laws, rules, conventions and institutions.
We tolerated repeated untruths
The citizenry is also unhappy with President Aquino’s dubious explanation of his actions during the SAF debacle. Nearly half find it inadequate, according to a Pulse Asia poll, which is another way of saying they don’t believe him.
And why should one believe Aquino, who admits responsibility for the Fallen 44, but repeatedly blames relieved SAF commander Getulio Napeñas, later adding presidential friend and suspended-then-resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima when the public didn’t buy his ploy of pinning all the blame on Napeñas.
Yet before we again lambast Aquinos dissembling, we must understand that huge segments of the public and the media swallowed his past untruths.
Early in his rule, Aquino claimed he bought a used Porsche, but never produced the sportscar’s registration papers. He stopped a Belgian flood control project to dredge Laguna lake, alleging anomalies, but never issued a cancellation order explaining why.
Even Pope Francis had to hear Aquino falsely accuse Filipino bishops of keeping silent about issues under then-President Gloria Arroyo. And he called her rule a “lost decade” before global investors who knew that his own economic gains owed much to her tax reforms, infrastructure program, and business process outsourcing boom.
Again, after initial controversy, few raised howls over these and many other presidential fibs. So Aquino feels he can dish out more, and many will still swallow his story.
In sum, as the President pleaded, we must understand why he failed the 44, flouted the law, and foisted unlikely tales about Mamasapano. We are to blame for electing, tolerating and cheering him.
But enough’s enough. Filipinos must now debunk untruths, enforce rules, and elect the truly capable. And Aquino must understand if we move to correct our errors in 2016. Or sooner.