Truth?

Resigned Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima and President Benigno S. Aquino III

Resigned Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima and President Benigno S. Aquino III

Unlike many in my circle, I listened to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s speech on Febuary 6, 2015. It was not riveting, but that was expected.

He said what the nation hoped to hear from him immediately after the Mamasapano killings:

Ako ang Ama ng Bayan, at 44 sa aking mga anak ang nasawi. Hindi na sila maibabalik; nangyari ang trahedya sa ilalim ng aking panunungkulan; dadalhin ko po hanggang sa huling mga araw ko ang pangyayaring ito. Responsibilidad ko po sila, kasama ang buong puwersa ng SAF sa operasyong ito, pati na ang mga nagligtas sa kanila na nalagay din sa panganib ang buhay. [1]

Heavy, meaningful words. But he said them so dispassionately that I seriously doubted his sincerity.

Did Aquino mean it when he assumed command responsibility, and therefore, culpability for the Mamasapano clash? It seemed so. That is, until he skirted around it, pointing the finger at he-who-shall-not-be-named except as “dating (former) SAF commander” – indicating, of course, the sacked Getulio Napeñas.

Citing his personal inquiry into the tragedy, Aquino raised a series of questions in which he practically implicated Napeñas and identified him as the sole culprit in the deaths of the 44. His ruminations became particularly damning when he said that in at least three instances, Napeñas could have aborted the mission, but did not. Never mind that Aquino pre-empted the official Board of Inquiry findings by saying that. It was a presidential intimation, and thus permissible in his book. But in matters besides his disclosures, please (he exhorts us), let us wait for the results of the BOI.

I cannot understand this taking-responsibility-but-not shtick. It is hypocritical and petulant, and in my view, just another immature gesture from our childish President. He sadly calls to mind Commodus, Marcus Aurelius’s heir with the inflated sense of entitlement in the film Gladiator. Self-indulgent and ambitious, Commodus never got what he wanted – not his father’s respect, not his people’s loyalty, not his sister’s love – because he demanded as a right what could only properly be earned. Our president reminds me of Commodus.

Aquino displayed more emotion when he told of the glory days with his favorite policeman Alan Purisima. He waxed sentimental as he recounted their perilous exploits and the fealty shown him through the years by his top cop. This was why it was such a wrench to let him go. Never mind that the country has been questioning Purisima’s integrity for months; that because of Purisima’s dubious character he was, in fact, suspended and is currently being investigated by the PNP and the Ombudsman; and that Purisima has been tagged (by he-who-shall-not-be-named and some other sources) as the operational chief behind Oplan Wolverine on that fatal day. Never mind all that. What matters is the halcyon days he spent serving our president as bodyguard in chief and how faithful he has been since then. For that he deserves a presidential paean and Aquino’s poignant regret.

So does the truth matter to President Aquino? He says it does.

In his January 28 address to the nation, he declared “Ika nga sa Bibliya: the truth shall set us free.” [2]

If so, then this portion of his current speech addressed to the MILF raises concerns about his appreciation of the truth:

Sa mga kasapi at liderato ng MILF: Mula pa noong umpisa, tinuturing ko kayo bilang mga kapatid sa paghahangad ng kapayapaan. At hanggang ngayon, umaasa ako na tutulong kayo na hanapin ang hustisya;… Ukol naman kay Usman, nais kong ipahayag: Kung nasa loob siya ng inyong teritoryo o nasa ilalim siya ng pangangalaga ng sinuman sa inyo, inaasahan kong isusuko ninyo siya sa mga awtoridad. Kung hindi, ay gawin ang lahat upang tumulong sa pagdakip sa kanya. At kung hindi pa rin maaari ito, ay huwag makialam sa aming pag-uusig kay Usman. [3]

The MILF has not exactly been forthcoming about the Mamasapano debacle. Aquino’s confidence in his “brothers in peace” may be misplaced. A recent news report stated that the MILF is merely “considering” returning “some if not all” of the stolen SAF firearms despite a nationwide clamor for it to do so. In another news item, the MILF leadership is now said to be discussing “possible cooperation in the government hunt” for Marwan’s sidekick Abdul Basit Usman. There is no guarantee that it will achieve a consensus on that. If it is truly our partner in the pursuit of peace, I would have expected more indignation from the MILF about this tragedy, more alacrity in its commitment to track down the killers and the lost firearms. I see neither. And yet our President continues to trust it.

Despite his declarations, the President’s confidence in his peace partner may not be all that solid. Does anyone else hear the uncertainty in his statements? “…umaasa ako na tutulong kayo…inaasahan kong isusuko ninyo siya sa mga awtoridad. Kung hindi, ay gawin ang lahat upang tumulong sa pagdakip sa kanya. At kung hindi pa rin maaari ito, ay huwag makialam sa aming pag-uusig kay Usman.”

You give the MILF too much leeway to deny your petition, Mr. President. Your appeal almost sounds like a plea. This is not a good position for the leader of the sovereign Filipino people, the ama ng bayan, as you like to call yourself. Could it be that you are not sure of your partner’s commitment? Is this why the Bangsamoro Bill is being railroaded, to appease a restive cohort? Is this friendship not as staunch as advertised? What is the truth, sir?

Since you cited the liberating power of truth, please Mr. President, tell the Filipino people the truth. We would like to know a few things.

We want to know whether the MILF legitimately represents the entire Bangsamoro people and if not, then why is our government negotiating only with this rebel entity? In the event that it is granted control of the transition government, we further want to know whether the MILF can guarantee a sustainable peace. Can it win the respect of the BIFF and other armed groups? Can it solve the problem of Datuism and other forms of turfing in the region? Is the peace panel justified in reposing trust in the MILF?

We want to know why Malaysia is mediating this peace agreement. Albeit a friendly neighbor, it is not without a vested interest in the autonomy of the Bangsamoro region. Who chose this facilitator and why?

We want to know why the peace panel has conducted its discussions in Malaysia at considerable expense to the Filipino taxpayer. We also want to know why it was necessary to release P1,819,000 for “activities” of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process via the Disbursement Acceleration Program. [4]

We want to know whether the 442 consultations conducted by the OPAPP tapped all the affected sectors in Mindanao; whether these events were well-attended; whether the people were asked the right questions and whether they were given ample opportunities to be heard.We also want to know the results of these consultations.

We want to know why, as Dean Merlin Magallona aptly observed, the peace panel and the President expect the Constitution to be amended to conform to the Bangsamoro Bill instead of vice versa.

We want to know why the BBL is being rushed despite its apparent unconstitutionality.

And ultimately, we want to know why the 44 had to fall and who made the call that caused their death. I am particularly keen to know why these decisions were made.

This is only a short list of issues requiring the truth, Mr. President. Would you please supply the answers? I hope this does not offend you, but that you take it as a request from one of your “children” who is anxious for the welfare and future of this country she holds dear.

I marched when your father died; I risked my life on EDSA for your mother to receive justice. Please do not let all that go to waste. Tell the truth, sir, and the truth shall set you free.

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HELP THE FAMILIES OF THE FALLEN 44
The Pinoy Pulse is accepting donations for the bereaved families of the Mamasapano heroes. To donate, please go to www.thepinoypulse.com and click on the “Donate” button found on the right side of the website. All contributions will be delivered to the families through Camp Crame. For inquiries, contact The Pinoy Pulse through the website or its Facebook page.
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[1] http://www.gov.ph/2015/02/06/president-aquino-address-to-nation/
“I am the father of this country and 44 of my children were killed. They can no longer be brought back. This tragedy happened during my term, and I will carry this to the end of my days. They were my responsibility, together with the rest of the forces of the SAF involved in this operation, as well as those who rescued them, and whose lives were likewise put in danger.”
[2] http://www.gov.ph/2015/01/28/video-president-aquinos-speech-addressing-the-nation/
“The Bible itself says: The truth shall set us free.”
[3] http://www.gov.ph/2015/02/06/president-aquino-address-to-nation/
“To the members and leadership of the MILF: From the onset, I have considered you brothers on the path to peace. Until now, I am confident that you will help us in seeking justice;…
Now about Usman, let me point out the following: If he remains within your territory, or is protected by one of your members, we expect you to surrender him to the authorities. If not, we expect you to do everything you can to help capture him. And if even this is not possible, do not interfere with our pursuit of Usman.”
[4] See 28. Activities for Peace Process under the PAMANA Program, OP-OPAPP, p3 (http://www.dbm.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/DAP/Dap%20Page/Projects/DAP-MASTER%20FILE-updated%2015aug14-FOR%20POSTING-WITH%20PROPONENT-FINAL_9-25.pdf)
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