HAVING suggested in the past that the Palace should audition a new communications factotum, to assist or replace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., we ought to welcome the emergence from his Palace foxhole of undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd.
There is in this the promise that his statements will be more to the point and less wordy and dull. And that he will be less presumptuous in claiming to speak for the President and the entire administration on every issue of politics and policy.
Whether this change in palace communications is salutary remains to be seen.
Quezon took as the subject for his first communications to the public and the media the subject of President BS Aquino’s testimony or affidavit in the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano massacre, which will begin tomorrow.
He announced that the President would no longer submit an affidavit to the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, as was earlier suggested by some in the administration. He did not address the public clamor for Aquino to be called to testify.
Quezon declared “I don’t see why there would be a reason for the President to submit an affidavit” during an interview over a state-run radio last Saturday.
Elaborating, he said: “Let us not forget that the Senate has already conducted its hearing and that it has concluded its probe. It was a very extensive hearing.”
Waiting for Aquino to do the right thing
This statement cements, rather than erases, the public impression that all this time, Quezon has either been in a foxhole at the Palace or has been preparing to do what other Aquino presidential spokesmen and the President himself have been doing: follow Goebbels and say whatever dishonest words they think can be repeated over and over again until they seem to be taken as true. Quezon seems completely unaware that for an entire year, since the Mamasapano massacre happened on January 25 last year, the nation has been grieving and debating the brutal slaying of 44 of our SAF commandos in Maguindanao.
For a year, our people have been demanding that President Aquino should tell all that he knows about the Mamasapano operation, and why he utterly failed to order rescue operations and assistance from the military to save the beleaguered commandos. Most significant, the public wants to hear a categorical denial that Aquino ordered the military to “stand down” during the critical hours when rescue would have meant the difference between life or death for the commandos.
Even now, the nation is still waiting to see the President do the right thing in this national tragedy, and to do right by the commandos and their surviving families.
It is not enough to say, as Quezon announced, that two of the SAF fatalities will be presented with the medal of valor. This does not answer the natural query: why only two? Why not all 44? It really doesn’t matter, as some of the SAF heroes’ families demonstrated yesterday: They did not show up at the awarding ceremonies.
It is striking that Malacañang has great difficulty and reluctance in calling what happened in Mamasapano a “massacre” instead of a misencounter or a mere incident. This is similar to Barack Obama’s extreme reluctance and refusal to call the ISIS terrorists “radical Islamists” and “violent extremists.” Linking Islam to terrorism scares him. Linking massacre and murder to Mamasapano scares Aquino.
Words matter. Healing is for wounds. Grief is for deaths.
One year after, the nation is still grieving over Mamasapano. This, President Aquino and his communicators need to understand.