I do not know how much cruelty we could take, but it looks like the Congress hearings on the Mamasapano massacre are determined to stretch it. In death, the 44 victims and their families have borne more than enough cruelty. This time, most of those in the hearings seem bent to make sure the public share every bit of it. It is cruel and unusual punishment.
The public is being grabbed by the neck, as it were, and compelled to watch the televised hearings where every stupid question is being asked, but not the real questions needed to find out why the 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) were butchered like domesticated pigeons in a shooting gallery.
Every grandstanding member of Congress is trying to win the huzzahs of the TV crowd and the unqualified endorsement of the gallery by heaping the meanest insult on Alan Purisima, the now fired PNP director-general, without breathing a word about the man on top of Purisima—President B. S. Aquino 3rd.
None of them could seem to ask a simple straight question, framed in appropriate parliamentary language, without throwing in a lot of verbiage about themselves and working facial expressions to show contempt for the tragic character who but for the unfortunate choice of a different career may have been their brethren in Congress.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago tried to illumine the hearings with her self-inflicted iridescence by talking of her “doctorate” and her having come from “UP” before pouncing on the poor Purisima. But instead of asking Purisima whether Aquino had asked him to run Oplan Exodus for him, despite his having been suspended by the Ombudsman, she berated him for not knowing that he wasn’t even supposed to show himself in his old premises while under suspension.
Clearly Purisima has to be guilty of something. But of what? Usurpation? What, and whose powers did he usurp? And how did he do it? The moment he was suspended, he was no longer supposed to perform any function as PNP Director-General, whether in connection with Oplan Wolverine/Exodus or anything else. All of his tasks should have passed on to Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP Acting Chief, his temporary successor. But Purisima kept the project, while Espina was totally kept out of it.
Had Purisima shown a little more honor, or a backbone more solid than that of a jellyfish, he could have told Aquino that he could no longer run the project because of his status, and the grave security implications of not doing anything of such importance right. There is no sign he ever tried doing that. He may, in fact, have asked Aquino to let him continue running the project, without the knowledge of Espina or even the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Manuel Roxas, so that if he succeeded in bringing in the two international terrorists (Marwan and Usman), he could use it to regain his position as PNP chief.
This would have presented no problem to Aquino, who had already taken control of the three branches of government. Moreover, giving official work to people who did not have any actual official position in government has never been incompatible with Aquino’s style of leadership. In 2010, Aquino and Roxas ran together on the understanding that if they won, Roxas, who had given up his presidential bid in favor of Aquino, would end up running the day-to-day affairs of government. Roxas failed to make it; but even during Aquino’s first year when Roxas was disqualified by law from being appointed to any office, it was an open secret that he was the one calling the shots for PNoy on many issues.
In like manner, it was reported that former DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno continued to function in some quasi-official capacity, even after he had been sacked from his post upon Roxas’s takeover as DILG chief. Puno, who had been Aquino’s longtime shooting buddy, among other things, exercised authority over the police while the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo was limited to handling local government. Robredo’s death in a mysterious plane crashprompted Aquino to give him more posthumous honors than he needed. But that did not diminish the cashiered Puno’s importance.
It is unthinkable that Purisima could have functioned the way he did as far as Oplan Exodus was concerned without Aquino’s express order or consent. That is something that does not need a PhD degree from Harvard. But this has nothing to do with the main question which should be answered. Who authorized the project is not the question. The only real question is why were the 44 killed? Who ordered the reinforcement forces to stand down?
The only story I would like to read from the hearings is one which says, “Aquino did not order the stand down.” Having been the first to report that he did, and having repeated it a few times since, I have been waiting to be told I was wrong; that he never did. I have had no such luck. I have been hoping that with the Times itself weighing in, with its frontpage banner headline saying, “PNoy ordered AFP, SAF to stand down,” a strong Malacañang denial would be forthcoming. Until now, no such luck. Is this what Sir Thomas More meant when, in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, he refers to the maxim of the law, “Qui tacet consentit?”,Which means, “Silence gives consent”?
And yet yesterday Malacañang tried to give the impression that Aquino did try to order a belated operation. It appeared to be a rather “half-hearted,” which instructed some units to try, provided they did not endanger themselves. It was like asking a life guard to rescue a child who’s drowning in the sea, provided he does not get wet. It’s for the birds.
Indeed, what we have in Congress is not an inquiry but a cover-up. The sole objective is to save the President, even at the cost of sinking the Republic. We cannot stop the lies from being told, but we should know what to do in the end.