Why can’t the Senate ask the question?


This is not a demand for every fighter or member of the Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF) to be fingerprinted, as seems to be the worry of President Aquino.

This is simply a basic point of query that is bugging the public and the relatives of the slain SAF commandos?

I skipped the broadcast of the Oscar awards yesterday morning in order to watch the resumption of the televised Senate hearing, and to find out whether Senate chief prober Sen. Grace Poe or some other senator would finally pop the question on who did the shooting and who killed the commandos.

But sadly, the question was not asked.

For an inquiry ostensibly called to investigate the Mamasapano incident and the death of over 60 Filipinos (44 commandos, 18 rebels, some civilians), it is inexplicable why the Senate has studiously avoided asking about who exactly died and who did what. If as has been suggested in media reports, certain groups did the killing, who are these groups? Who is finding out?

After four public hearings and two executive sessions, the Senate inquiry remains absent-minded and unfocused. With so many generals, police officers and civilian officials on hand as resource persons, no one asked and no one was asked to make a report on the killings.

The public has been led into so many directions, many citizens now sometimes forget what question the inquiry is really trying to answer.

Among these distractions are:
What is President Aquino’s accountability in this incident? Did he authorize the SAF operation? Why did he not order reinforcements?

Which general refused the request or order to provide relief and rescue?

What was suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima doing in this operation? Who gave him the authority to be involved?

Did the United States have a role in the incident? Did it suffer casualties?

All these questions are important, but some concerned citizens are so confused they believe it’s time to turn to Sen. Lito Lapid to conduct the inquisition, because he used to make the bad guys squirm and pay in his movies.

In the afternoon session, Sen. Ralph Recto indirectly asked about the killings in questioning peace adviser Teresita Deles and Justice secretary Leila de lima about whether the MILF will submit the names of its combatants. But the exchange was timid and roundabout.

Inquiry needs no-nonsense investigators
This shortcoming of the Senate inquiry underlines why an independent, bipartisan commission of inquiry, empowered by Congress, would have been the better mechanism for investigating Mamasapano. As long as the houses of Congress are doing the inquiring themselves, this affair of state will not get anywhere.

Here are some key reasons why, based on my reading on how independent commissions – like the Kennedy assassination commission and the 9/11 commission –have functioned in US history (there are fat books on the commission reports):

1. The Senate inquiry is nursing the illusion that it can establish facts and obtain disclosures by having senators throw clever questions at resource persons. Whenever the witness clams up or invokes executive privilege, it stymies the method.

2. An impartial inquiry will employ topnotch investigators and lawyers to conduct investigations of leads and question witnesses. They will be under obligation to establish facts and secure relevant documents.

3. An impartial inquiry can still be open to the public, but it need not have intrusive TV cameras intimidating witnesses and encouraging senators to grandstand.

4. An impartial inquiry would not summon the President to testify in open court. It will conduct the questioning or interview in private.

5. An impartial inquiry can delve in a more holistic way into big topics like: the nature of the government’s deal with the MILF, its impact on the incident, the nature of US engagement in the anti-terrorism campaign in Mindanao and Sulu.

It can also address in a more coherent way how the Bangsamoro project impacted the incident.

A high standard of acceptability
The writing of the commission report and findings will become the highlight of the inquiry.

The report will be thorough, detailed and clear. It will leave little room for doubt or interpretation.

Once the report is submitted, Congress must either accept or reject it. In the traditional congressional inquiry, either house must take it or leave it.

Not so with a independent commission report. Congress must decide as a matter of public responsibility. The public will also judge whether the commission has done right by the dead in Mamasapano.

As things are, there is little chance that the Senate inquiry can produce a report that will satisfy this high standard of acceptability.



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  1. emmanuel mallari on

    kaya nabago ang script nila dahil sa simpleng tanong ni sen nancy binay (urgh!!) kila roxas, napenas at purisima….sino sa inyo ang nag-inform sa pangulo tungkol sa nangyayaring labanan sa mamasapano? simpleng tanong ngunit wala silang naisagot…nagtinginan lang sila and ultimately says….walang nagsabi sa kanila sa kanila sa pangulo. hayan tuloy nagbago ng script at lalong nagkaloko loko ang detalye at dumami pa ang dapat itanong sa ginawa nilang script..

  2. Remember Rizal’s tale of the monkey and the turtle? In “Ang Matsing at Ang Pagong,” the turtle begged the monkey to punish him any way he liked except by drowning him. That gave the monkey the idea. He grabbed the turtle and threw him into the river, where he swam away to safety. The dim-witted monkey did not realize that that was precisely the turtle’s intention all along. Thus the expression, “Tuso man ang matsing …”

    In the Senate “moro-moro” on the Mamasapano Massacre, Purisima plays Turtle to the Senate’s Monkey. Except this time, the two sides are not protagonists but collaborators. Both are onto the plot. The monkey knows all along what the turtle is set to accomplish, and is willing to accommodate.

    Early on, Purisima said he had text messages between him and BS Aquino but would not show them to the senators. Malacanang’s allies made threatening noises and said they would compel him to produce them.

    Finally, almost a month after the slaughter of the SAF 44, Purisima came out with the purported text messages. They are nothing like the text messages you see in real life. It seems that Purisima and BS Aquino took pains to tap the tiny keys of their cellphones one at a time to compose fully spelled words organized into complete sentences and neat paragraphs with the proper punctuation marks. Few abbreviations, few shortcuts. And they all led to the same conclusion –BS Aquino is blameless.

    Mission accomplished.

  3. The Senators should not play dead dumb and stupid , because the public is not .. Furthermore in the halls of congress and the Senate words like Honor, duty, love of Country ,oath of Office , abide by the laws and protect the constitution , welfare of a he people are not dead and buried. May your children be proud of the country you leave them

  4. jose b. taganahan on

    It is not correct to say that the Senate did not ask the question on”who did the shooting and who killed the commandos” The questions has been ask several times and were answered several times. The answer were all the same ;It was the MILF, BIFF,private Armed group and armed men who shot and massacred those 44 SAF men.

    On the question of “What is President Aquino’s accountability in this incident? Did he authorize the SAF operation? Why did he not order reinforcements? The common answer is the incompetent President BS Aquino lll is the ultimate responsible for the operation which he personally approved and he was made to believed by suspended (and now retired PNP Chief Purisima) that the SAF was getting support from the AFP’s mechanized regiment and the AFP’s artillery. He ordered reinforcements early on but bureaucratic red tape delayed the reinforcements. At the same time the more than 300 SAF men who were part of the operation did nothing to save their companion before the Army came period

  5. Abnoy-noyingski on

    Ang palusot kitang kita at kung totoo naman, ito naman ang sagot ko: ang palusot ni Noynoy Pogi ay “I was fed lies on the Mamasapano tragedy.” What you sow, you will reap. Kung ano ang ginawa at ginagawa mong kasinungalingan sa bayan, bumabalik sa iyo. Sino naman ang mga kasama at bata mong nagsinungaling? Di ba mga bata mo yan? Baka walng respeto sa iyo kasi di ka karespe-respeto?

  6. With Purisima’s revelation that he was texting Aquino all throughout, the Senate’s next question should be directed to Aquino: why did he chose to let Purisima take charge of the operation knowing that the latter is under suspension? While we cannot deny the prerogative of the President to order even a suspended official, the gravity of the operation (it being in pursuit of an HVT) had more implications than he imagined, one of which is this: how can Purisima be rightly authorised to oversee the operation given that he is under suspension? That in itself is a huge gap in Aquino’s capability as a leader.

  7. Vicente Penetrante on

    The time for questions is past. The Senators are now using their fingers. One finger to point a blame on one general. Trillanes is trying hard, parrying to break the fingers pointing to the commander-in-chief.

  8. The author seems set on his belief that the senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident is a disappointment.

    He failed to understand that the hearing is conducted in order to formulate related laws that will prevent another incident from happening not to prosecute those who are found guilty or liable. Also, the reason why there is a need to ask all those questions is to make sure that in formulating laws, loopholes will be avoided.

    Furthermore, the author pointed out that the questions asked during the hearing were distractions from the real question as to who did the killing or which group did the killing. While the question is indeed important, those that have been asked are also essential in establishing the liability and figuring out what happened in order to find out who killed the fallen44.

  9. you, my good friend, are speaking too soon. yes, i can find some importance in the question you long to ask, but please do remember that we are looking at this in the context of war. in war, individuals are rarely charged–it’s usually institutions that are held accountable. the author seems to be forgetting that he’s trying to get specific names out of a chaotic skirmish, where the people who know and/or recognize the killers are most possibly dead. as sec. de lima had said, it’s hard to file charges when one doesn’t know the specifics. heck–we can’t even pinpoint the specific institution that should be held liable for the tragedy. milf? biff? an unfortunate mix of both? let the inquiry confirm that first then we go with filing warrants.

  10. I like alan peter cayatano. He in the binay investigations seems to ask all the right questions & he wont let them off the hook. But here in this investigation are the senators really bothered getting the truth to the people. One quesion you asked is easily answered, who gave purisma permission to be involved, well we know that was pnoy, but pnoys was wrong once purisma was suspended it should have been passed over to, sorry i cant think of his name but you know who it is.
    Purisma tried to sneak his way out of this saying i only offered advice well he should have asked the new guy in charge if he wanted any advice off him. That was the correct thing to do.
    But its a complete cover up. The milf leadership said these guys fought the police off their own backs, well that shows they cant control their forces. They should all immediately be handed over to authorities for trial to see if they committed any offences

  11. Of course any inquiry done by politicians will arrive at conclusions favoring the majority. This is commonly called a white-wash.

  12. leandel canilatea on

    as they say ‘ kailangan pa ba itanong yun?’ really its a big cover up, kitang kita. you don’t have to be a sherlock holmes to deduce that everything is done to protect PeNoy.

  13. Leodegardo Pruna on

    If that is the case, let us change our Constitution and forego with the senate and congress and in its stead have an independent council to run government. The senate and congress are doing the investigation in aid of legislation. What we need to do is pray that they simply do their work out of love of country and not out of love of self. God bless the Philippines.

  14. Carl Cid Inting on

    Nobody’s asking the tough questions because they’re all following Malacañang’s script.

  15. Arlyn Jawad Jumao-as on

    I am following The Manila Times in Facebook. The Senate may try to ” unfold ” what really happened in Mamasapano, I still believe the “Stand down, stand down” order of the President.
    Ito nalang po ang masasabi ko;
    I am from Mindanao, we need Peace, but not the peace that is rammed down our throats just because somebody wants to leave a “legacy”, not the peace that is a prelude to a larger war. We want a peace that is JUST and LASTING.

  16. We Filipinos want justice for the fall 44 policemen.But the President is not seeking it for his Nation. In fact he’s denied it by recognizing that the MILF as an ally to peace. He’s denied it by not demanding his Generals and advisers to tell the truth, By lying for his friend Gen. Purisima and the MILF group at the same time. Justice is so far denied by the person that every Pinoy looks up to.Now his reputation is on a downward spiral and I hope he gets flushed down the crapper for all the BS and web of lies he and his media friends are manufacturing.One day they will run out of lies.And one day justice will be served not just the fallen 44 but the entire nation.I say NATION because this is a case against our people of our country.

  17. The senators asking questions in the senate inquiry are not so intelligent they would be more useful if they kept silent. These senators are smart only if their is money at stake for their taking.

  18. Dapat sa senate tigilan na ang walang kabuluhang imbistigasyon sayang ang panahon at pera ng bayan. Maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw ayaw nilang malaman ang katotohanan. Sa klase ng kanilang tanong niloloko nila ang mga taong bayan. Tama ka ayaw nilang itanong ang dapat itanong.

  19. Meanwhile,. Mr. Makabenta, It makes me wonder how you and so many others who are concerned about the future of our country can remain unaffected by the fact that unless Aquino is removed the Comelec-Smartmatic stranglehold on Philippine elections will continue.
    You and other very articulate and “wise” commentators write about the future as if we will still have fraud-free, credible elections in 2016 with the Smartmatic AES-with PCOS machines.
    Unless the tragedy of the Mamasapano Massacre leads to the removal of Aquino and his evil clique of Abad, Mar Roxas, Drilon et al, any hearings and Truth Commission findings about it will in the end serve only to distract people from the destruction of Philippine democracy and the perpetual rule the evil click through the PCOS machines!!!!

  20. The fallen 44 will never get justice until Aquino resigns and confess his sins to the people and a chance or the possibility the families of the SAF victims will forgive him in due time, tutal hindi na maibabalik ang kanilang buhay and at least may mga compensation naman sila natanggap.

  21. Halatang halata ang mga senador na pinagtatakpan si PNoy. Ayaw nilang itanong yung tanong ng taongbayan tulad ng bakit kay Purisima nakikipagtext si PNoy sa kasagsagan ng labanan, eh suspindido ito? Bakit hindi sa chain of command? Tapos text pa!

    Halatang halata si Trillanes Escudero maski si Grace Poe! Hindi mo talaga igagalang ang mga ito, wala kang maaasahan masyadong nababoy ang Senate at Congress!

    • Actually, ilang ulit po direktang itinanong ni Sen. Miriam kay Purisima At Napeñas kung sino ang nag-utos sa kanila sa pagpapatupad ng operasyon at ilang ulit din n’yang tinanong kung si PNoy ba dahil maliban kay Purisima, bilang Chief of the State, ang pangulo po ang may kapangyarihan na mag-utos ng malaki at delikadong operasyon sa mga kapulisan o military. Pero gaya po noong hearing kay Napoles, ayaw nilang magsalita kung sino ang responsable maliban sa sarili nila. Ayaw po nilang idawit si PNoy sa gross negligence na napamalas na nagdulot ng pagkamatay ng 44SAF. Pero kahit naman po hindi nila idawit ang pangalan ni PNoy, bilang pangulo, imposibleng ignorante po sya sa operasyon at imposibleng hindi niya alam na nagkulang siya dahil hindi mangyayari ang lahat kung ito po ay pinagplanuhan ng ayos at dapat lang na bilang pangulo siya ay involved.

  22. Bravo again Mr. Makabenta . I had lost my trust and respect with the senate / congress innvestigation laolo pag ang ini-imbestigahan ay si simeon aquino or any of his allies .We can talk aqnd talk and talk until mapiga o malagutan nG hininga but these investigators BUT, like their commander in THIEF NA SAAN KAYA KUMUKUHA NAG KAPAL NG MUKHA ….. Only MIRRIAM Defensor has tha ball to investigate face -face , all the rest … they even aske questions to absolve the guilty party/parties . MABUHAY SI MIRRIAM DEFENSOR …MORE POWER TO U MR. MAKABENTA

  23. My personal observation is that the senate investigating committee deliberately skip the most important issue. The issue is not whether Aquino has a direct hand in Oplan Exodus. The answer is already a given. With the admission of Purisima that he has active participation of course, Aquino gave him a “go ahead.” Purisima cannot just give the order by himself especially when he is under suspension.

    Verily, the issue which earned the ire of the public is as to Why Aquino did not order rescue or reinforcement specifically for the trapped 55th SAF who were eventually annihilated. The text messages of Purisima show the glaring truth, to wit:

    As early as 5:30 am Pur5isima informed Aquino that the 55thSAF, containment or blocking force, are encountering heavy fire from the BIFF/MILF. Yet, the Noynoying only replied at 7:36 am, almost two hours. In fact, in between, he also received text mjessages from Gen. Espina and updates from Gen. Napenas.

    The first update by Purisima as to the sad fate of the 55thSAF was shown in his text message thus, “At 6:20 p.m. Purisima’s last update was “Sir latest report from operating elements in Maguindanao states that the security elements who were engaged in BIFF/MILF elements suffered heavy casualties. They were reportedly overrun. CCH and international monitoring team are in the area retrieving casualties. The main effort is still in the process of rendezvous with other SAF and AFP elements.”

    Clearly the rescue order of Aquino which was given to Gen. Guerrero where he enjoined “best efforts and not to engage the enemy because it is getting dark” refers only to the 84th SAF but not the 55th SAF. There was no proof or any text message of Aquino ordering rescue or reinforcement to the men of 55th SAF since they had been dead around 3:00 pm.

    In short, the senators deliberately kept the distinction or the circumstances relative to the 84th SAF and 55thSAF. They deliberately left this to the confusion of the public to portray that indeed, Aquino ordered a rescue of the 55th SAF but Purisima misinformed Aquino of the situation on the ground. This is a lot of bull since Aquino did not only received text messages from Purisima but also text messages from Gen. Espina and the fact that he also received regular updates from Gen. Napenas.

  24. Mr Makabenta: You are right – these senate/congress inquiries have so muddled up the facts that it has become something of a he said-she said affair. So it looks as if we will never find out the real truth. But thinking out of the box, there is someone who can help us get to the bottom of things – the Americans. First, if Aquino and Co were in the Drone Control Hq observing the operations, there must be an internal security video of that room – all high security rooms hv several cctv cameras for security purposes. Second, if the drones recorded everything from the air, it should show what transpired, probably even help us identify who executed the wounded SAF troopers. Now, all we have to do is ask them…

    • emmanuel mallari on

      bro, yes they should do that but it is easier said than done. baka nga suntok sa buwan pa ang gusto mong mangyari lalo na at involved ang US. heto na lang ang tingnan natin, napakadaling ma-confirm sa TELCO kung yung text messages between Abnoy/Purisima/Napenas ay totoo or hindi. sad to say, sabi ni Escudero and Grace Poe na hindi na kailangan. So dun pa lang sa sagot nitong dalawa ay ayaw talaga nila malaman ang katotohonan. Sayang si Grace Poe, I voted for her as senator but now she just lost my vote and that of my family.

  25. Perhaps the Senate should also issue subpoenas directing the network providers to produce records of sms exchanges berween purisima and aquino to verify if all text messages between the two were disclosed to the senate.

    • that you should have (asking the telcos to give an authentic copy of the text messages between boy sisi and purisima) been what the senate did, to subpoena the text messages between boy sisi and purisima and not rely on purisima and malacanan (did malacanan give a copy also? i do not know) to provide copy. any serious investigator should get the evidence from the telcos. elementary yon. am sure nanonood ng mga crime stories or movies na may crime ang mga senador at yun ang ginagawa ng mga imbestigador. amateur at hindi seryoso si grace poe-llamanzares,