Hunger that drives people to madness and despair is tragic. Ignoring needs of hungry folk and answering demands for food with a hail of bullets is criminal. Launching a parade of lies to defend the indefensible is obscene. It strips President Benigno Aquino’s government of legitimacy.
The President is missing in the face of crisis, as usual. His spokespersons and alter egos, and local stooges, swerve and lurch from one falsehood to another.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Wilben Mayor claimed cops didn’t carry guns. Photos show armed cops were there from the start of the protest.
Then the PNP said armed cops were sent because of the reported presence of rebels. They got a search warrant against the protesters’ church-owned sanctuary, but came out of the United Methodist Church compound with only one sports cap.
It didn’t surprise anyone who’d already seen video footage of the dispersal. The (pleasant) surprise was to find that some government officials remain committed to truth-telling.
Watch: Bullets for Rice by Kilab Multimedia
Suddenly, functionaries who had demanded the public wait for a government probe decided CHR Region 12 Director Erlan Deluvio. was not a person of authority.
The government ignored Deluvio and turned right to focus on a new tack: communists were to blame for “duping” the farmers.
Farmers didn’t know why they were there, said these spokespersons.
Who fed them? demanded Malacanang factotums and lapdogs. There would have been no protest if nobody fed and encouraged these poor farmers, they said.
Liberal party standard bearer Mar Roxas has joined the chorus, as if he didn’t see the outpouring of support for the Lumad he and his patron refused to help.
Filipinos responded to the callous spin with an outpouring of rice donations for the farmers.
Officials staged more tantrums. The donations were aimed at embarrassing the government, they said.
Cops barred food from reaching protesters. They also tried to bar lawyers, rights workers and kin from access to the wounded, even to the dead.
National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia said cops kept arrested protesters in a gym way beyond the legally prescribed time — and then, in the absence of a lawyer, made them sign away their rights.
Every right had to be fought for. In the city of Kidapawan, the Philippines has its first display of urban hamletting — mass illegal detention and denial of the most basic needs.
The government even tried to scare off local businesses. Tudla Productions reported on April 5:
Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, Jr. recieved a call from a trader that 300 sacks of rice to be donated to farmers were held up in the warehouse for the police refused that the sacks be taken out. The sacks were purchased by Becky Vidanes, Robin Padilla’s manager.
The persistent outcry and appalled statements from multilateral agencies and international groups and most media outfits prompted an about face that finally allowed the flow of aid today.
But not before the most obscene act opened.
The budget secretary, responding to reports that it had slashed P2-billion off requested El Nino mitigating funds, said agencies had been told to source whatever was needed from the budgets for other programs.
It truly needs people living on a different plane of reality would think it is right to cut an urgent request in half, and then stealing funds from allocated programs to cover up.
That’s a shell game, pure and simple, using people’s money – and you wonder what they’re covering up because they’ve been throwing money left and right to their pet legislators and local government officials.
National government started an outpouring of technocratese to numb the debate. But one of the ruling coalition’s most powerful members decided spice things up by suddenly becoming a security spokesman for the government.
Prospero Alcala, President Aquino’s untouchable agriculture secretary – a slew of graft charges, his congressional slush fund ending up in ghost NGOs that used farmers without ever giving them the benefit of taxpayers’ monies – told media:
Things aren’t so bad; the communists only want it to sound bad, because they wanted a big shebang to celebrate the March 29 anniversary of the New People’s Army. The entire protest, says Alcala, was just a show. There wasn’t much hunger. There was, in fact a bumper crop.
That made for a collective puke heard around the country.
And that’s how you know it’s over, when the government starts botching up even the simplest rules of logic.
Government neglect and inefficiency and hubris were responsible for the Kidapawaan tragedy. Everything else that follows is just proof that this is a government without soul and, thus, without legitimacy. #30
Malacanang can rage till kingdom come. Sen. Antonio Trillanes can bluster till his skin turns blue and his puppy jowls fall off. And Justice Secretary Leila de Lima can spend hours justifying why the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been orphaned by its Commander in Chief.
The bosses aren’t biting.
For probably the first time in the teflon presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III, the bosses are cracking the whip, telling the self-righteous little emperor that he truly has no clothes.
And it’s a sordid sight.
“Tama na, sobra na.”
Who could have imagined this proud son of icons being hoisted by his yellow ribbon, now splattered with the blood of those who fell in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.
The report states that the President knowingly allowed a suspended police chief to continue exercising official functions. It refutes government claims that Americans had no direct involvement in the Mamasapano operation.
The Poe report goes beyond the BOI acknowledgement of the presence of six Americans in Napenas’ command post. It bares details from executive proceedings, including an exchange that had an American ordering the head of the reinforcing military division to rain artillery fire on hostile forces.
Worse, it strongly hints that Mr. Aquino’s over reliance on Purisima even as the Mamasapano tragedy unfolded, may have hampered the search for a solution to save cornered the cornered SAF.
While Filipinos, especially those serving in military and the police, may believe the country is worth dying for, they may be wondering if Mr. Aquino is a commander in chief worth fighting for. The reference to the line made famous by his murdered father, Ninoy Aquino, was unfortunate — uttered by a man who has refused to accept any blame for the deaths of 44 elite. US-trained cops in Mamasapano.
The problem is, Mr. Aquino conflates “country” with himself. That autocratic streak and sense of entitlement that upends everything “People Power” stands for, are at the root of his current woes.
The President campaigned in the 2010 elections, pledging to be the opposite of his predecessor and waving the banner of “tuwid na daan” (straight path).
Mr. Aquino has led the charge against corrupt allies of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest as she awaits the outcome of plunder raps. Yet the incumbent Chief Executive and Commander in Chief has shown a persistent refusal to hold friends to the same standards of integrity he demands of the nation.
The latest example is suspended national police chief Alan Purisima, who was allowed to lead a vital, sensitive and highly dangerous mission: capturing the terror suspect Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan, and his Filipino ally, Basit Usman.
Chain of Command
The BOI pointed out that Mr. Aquino, as Commander in Chief, bypassed the PNP chain of command by entrusting the suspended Purisima with the Mamasapano operation.
The report, of course, also found Purisima and Special Action Forces Director Getulio Napenas guilty of the same. Purisima also usurped authority that was not his to wield.
The BOI rejected de Lima’s claim that the PNP, a civilian organization, does not have a commander in chief and that the break stopped with Purisima and Napenas.
The Justice Secretary reiterated her position following the release of the BOI report. Mr. Aquino’s spokespersons echoed that line. Even the Interior Secretary, who supervises the PNP and publicly mourned for the 44 fallen SAF, said Mr. Aquino holds no blame for the debacle.
The PNP probers have refused to blink and are standing by their report.
The BOI head, CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong said they ignored Mr. Aquino’s speech before his religious friends. This was where he gave a convoluted narrative of his supposed effort to warn Napenas against potential disaster.
The BOI report actually highlighted the President’s conflicting statements as the Mamasapano probe underwent various twists and turns. The Palace’s no-commander-in-chief defense has also been squashed by former president Fidel V. Ramos and former PNP chief and senator, Panfilo Lacson. The latter pointed out that the Constitution clearly states that the President of the Republic is Commander in Chief of its armed forces, to include the PNP.
“Hindi po madali ang landas tungo sa kapayapaan. Marami nang Pilipino ang nagbuwis ng buhay para labanan ang mga nais magpatuloy ang dahas at hidwaan. Ang pinakaayaw magkaroon ng digmaan ay ang mga pulis at sundalo, dahil sila ang una at pinakamalaki ang sakripisyo kapag nagkagulo. At bilang Pangulo at Commander-in-Chief, pasan ko naman po ang responsibilidad para sa anumang resulta, sa anumang tagumpay, pasakit, o trahedya, na maaari nating matamasa sa paghahangad ng pangmatagalang seguridad at kapayapaan.” **ialics/bold by author
The President’s speech was all about Mamasapano, which was purely a SAF (police) operation since Purisima and Napena failed to coordinate with the military – or only did so with a curious interpretation of “time-on-target” as to mean after the fact.
Mr. Aquino added:
“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.”
This was the speech where he reluctantly, even angrily, accepted the resignation of Purisima as PNP chief, lauding the latter’s history of personal loyalty, including restoring his confidence — via an improved VIP protection program — after an ambush that led to the deaths of three of his aides during the 1987 coup attempt
Mr. Aquino was forced to accept Purisima’s resignation after Napenas exposed Purisima’s order to withhold information from PNP Officer in Charge Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. The President had earlier claimed that Purisima had merely offered advice on the nuances and intricate points of the admittedly high-value operation.
Even as Mr. Aquino’s aids struggled to undo the damage done by the BOI report, Poe released her draft report on the chamber’s Mamasapano probe.
“The President must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by PDG Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus. “
The report cited a text exchange between Purisima and Mr. Aquino a day before the Jan 9 meeting with Napenas and PNP Intelligence Group Director Fernando Mendez. It shows Purisima arranging for the briefing on Oplan Exodus.
The suspended cop chief then escorted the two police officers to the Jan. 9 meeting, made them wait after the briefing while he had a private chat with Mr. Aquino, and then ordered Napenas to keep the operation from Espina and IRoxas.
“… even before 8 January 2015, Purisima was already “barred from performing the functions” of the Office of the Chief of the PNP. Yet, he personally took charge over the presentation of the updated plan to get Marwan and Usman before the President and accordingly made himself present when Napeñas gave the briefing and mission update on Oplan Exodus to the President at the 9 January 2015 meeting held at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang. Being on preventive suspension, Purisima should not have been at this meeting, where a highly classified police operation was being discussed. The President should have excluded Purisima from this meeting. “
Much speculation swirls around the President’s trip to Zamboanga on the day of the tragedy. His cops were dying as he did the rounds of hospitals to convey sympathies for victims of a bomb blast. Reporters waited for hours for a mysterious briefing that never happened. And then he went back to Manila the same night, without any acknowledgement of Mamasapano.
Both the BOI and the Poe reports note that Mr. Aquino — known as a lover of all things that go bang — was involved in tactical details and giving orders like a commander. The Senate report notes that he “gave instructions to PDG Purisima as to the conduct of Oplan Exodus on 25 January 2015, as when the President sent PDG Purisima a text message reading, “Basit should not get away.”
The families of the slain SAF and the surviving members of the assault Seaborne unit have stressed that in their search for justice, they want answers on why no rescue happened till it was too late.
While the Poe report raises the possibility that the military could have done more, it lays the blame squarely on Mr. Aquino.
“Until late in the afternoon of 25 January 2015, it was Purisima who was providing the President with updates on the progress of the operation. While the President was in Zamboanga City for most of 25 January 2015 with the Secretaries of Defense and of Interior and Local Governments, as well as the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the OIC of the Philippine National Police, the President communicated only with Purisima about the operation.”
All of the President’s officers in Zamboanga say he did not consult them. Neither did these officials assert themselves. The report posits that had information been shared during those crucial hours, rescue could have been hastened and lives saved.
As the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, the President exercises supreme operational command of the nation’s military forces. The President also controls all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He wields the awesome powers of government, and has its vast resources at his disposal. The President’s decision not to use these resources at that instance, must be explained by him. The President is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the mission.
The President has described critics as war-mongers and presented himself as the nation’s chief peace maker. The Senate report lauds his efforts to salvage the Bangsamoro Law needed to complete the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yet it calls to question the worthiness of the MILF as peace partners and minces no words about the massacre, the deliberate finishing off of wounded and helpless SAF.
The latter is an issue quite apart of Mr. Aquino’s failure, as chief architect of the current peace process, to factor in existing ceasefire mechanisms and agreements between his government and the MILF. The BOI emphasises this point. As a result, military officials — who are sworn to follow protocols imposed on them — were made the fall guys in the failure to rescue the SAF.
Command responsibility. The coddling of a friend facing grave charges of corruption. The wilful refusal to consult other security officials even during a crisis. The green lighting of an operation where the Americans played such a key role that they dared order military rescuers.
As the nation grieved for the fallen cops, the fallen rebels, the slain civilians, Mr. Aquino and his aides tried their best to keep the lid on these ugly truths.
The pus has bubbled over, spreading an ugly yellow stain on hopes for peace in Mindanao. The avalanche of poison from festering wounds threaten to swamp Mr. Aquino. And he has only himself to blame.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III snubbed the invitation of the Board of Inquiry created by the Philippine National Police. Instead, he chose to deliver his latest outrageous speech under very controlled conditions.
“Christian leaders” gathered this afternoon on the grounds of Malacanang to pray for the President’s deliverance from his critics.
This, as he added to the mountain of lies dished out since January 25, the day 44 Special Action Forces, at least 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and six civilians died in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.
His speech came just a day after the nation commemorated the 40th day of the Mamasapano deaths. His speech came a day after widows of the SAF’s Fallen 44 begged him to tell the truth, and days after a surviving SAF hero of Mamasapano said the only justice he wants is to know who allowed his comrades to die. (Read:‘No One Asked For Coordinates’ )
Just Napenas. There was very little mention of his best friend, disgraced Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.
“Maraming wishful thinking si Napenas as opposed to reality. Maliwanag sa akin: binola niya ako … Sinolo ni Napenas. Siya ang nag desisyon at may times na yung desisyon niya palpak. Pag alis niya sa akin nung January 9, lumalabas ngayon na wala siyang intensyon na tuparin yung utos ko sa kanyang mag-coordinate.”
(Napenas was indulging in wishful thinking, instead of focusing on reality. It is now clear to me: he tricked me. Napenas operated as a lone wolf. He decided alone and those decisions were wrong. When he left me on January 9… I now know that he had no intention of obeying my order for him to coordinate.)
Mr. Aquino today claimed, that as early as the January 9 briefing in Bahay Pangarap, he already told Napenas that the SAF cannot deploy just 160 SAF troopers in Mamasapano to take out Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman when there were 3,000-4,000 potential hostiles in the area.
“He told me: ‘Sir, mag co-coordinate kami on jump-off.’ Sabi ko: ‘Hindi pwede yung pagkilos dapat iposisyon yung kanyon. Kailangan iposisyon yung tangke. Kailangan iposisyon yung plano, yung tao, yung gasolina at yung bala ng kanyon, yung bomba ng eroplano.” Hindi mo magagawa yan ng 30 minutes.”
(He told me, we will coordinate on jump off. I told him, you can’t do that because you need to position artillery and tanks, personnel, gasoline, ammunition and bombs from planes.)
Aquino betrays his desperation with this new tack.
The Commander in Chief now presents himself as a fool, just to evade accountability for the tragedy that has torn the peace process into shreds and sent tens of thousands of Maguindanao residents escaping from clashes.
“Various officials, from the Secretary of Justice to the Senate President, have tried to downplay the President’s role. Drilon has the gall to preempt the Senate’s investigative report, insisting no blame should be ascribed to the President.”
“Misguided, misled, misinformed. While he may have been all that, we warn lawmakers: Do not shield the President. Napenas answered only to Purisima and Mr. Aquino — because the President willed it.”
Pants on Fire
Simply put, the President lied today.
The lies are so bad they fly in the face of logic.
Today’s lies also show that he lied in his earlier speeches to the nation, when he claimed not to have dabbled into operational details about Mamasapano.
You wonder how his advisers – who must have monitored everything that has gone before – allowed him to mouth off in this fashion. Anyone can access news reports of the Senate Mamasapano hearings and related incidents.
But then accounts of the President’s willfulness are legion. Mr. Aquino has always had a problem dealing with reality – other than that which exists in his mind.
The fact is, the President is scared. Very scared. And he has a lot to be scared of, starting with the fact that the men he sacrificed in Mamasapano, and the men left holding the bag of blame, refuse to be silent.
The ship of state has so many leaks. Men in uniform themselves are punching holes in the President’s tall tales.
Napenas, in response to Roxas’ questions, said the President knew that coordination would be time-on-target. Did Napenas lie? If he did, so did BFF Purisima, who repeatedly defended to senators his concept of time-on-target.
This is the same Purisima who told Napenas not to inform PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and Roxas of the operation. He never denied Napenas’ story before the Senate.
This is the same Purisima who claimed the duty of informing the AFP chief of staff – and never did so.
This is the same Purisima who escorted Napenas to brief the President; Purisima who stayed behind for a private chat with the President, and then gave his orders to Napenas.
And this, by the way, was Mr. Aquino’s text mate as the Mamasapano tragedy unfolded.
Not Napenas. Only Purisima. (The President barely acknowledged Roxas’ text on the morning of January 25. And he did not bother to talk to Roxas – who shared the same Zamboanga City-bound plane – until things got so bad around noon.)
If, indeed, Mr. Aquino warned Napenas of the need to marshall all possible personnel and equipment for Mamasapano, then he lied earlier in denying any operational responsibility.
But did Mr. Aquino really play the general in advising Napenas of what was needed in an operation where the SAF could face 3,000 to 4,000 enemies?
That is pure bull.
Had Mr. Aquino warned Napenas of 3,000 – 4,000 enemies in Mamasapano, he would NOT have texted Purisima, asking why they left Marwan’s body behind, and then say the enemy strength was just over a dozen men.
Had Mr. Aquino, indeed, warned of the hordes of enemies, he would not have flayed the SAF survivors for the failure to get Basit Usman.
Had Mr. Aquino given the warning, Purisima would NOT have repeated again and again to the Senate, that time-on-target fantasy.
Had Mr. Aquino said all that, he would have tore at his hair and shred his barong during his first televised speech.
What commander in chief would ask a SAF director to initiate a powwow with the AFP chief of staff?
Had the Commander in Chief informed Napenas that thousands of enemies were waiting for the SAF, he would have at least checked with the AFP chief of staff and PNP OIC and DND secretary. (Never mind, Mar Roxas, whom he apparently blamed for Purisima’s woes.)
Killing his own legacy
Had Mr. Aquino warned of thousands of enemies, then he was was willing to risk peace talks with the MILF. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) do not have that many men in Mamasapano. Many of those thousands would have to come from the ranks of the MILF.
If Mr. Aquino ordered the prepositioning of artillery and bombs from planes, why was there no rescue of the hapless SAF? As a SAF survivor notes, they provided coordinates regularly. Every time they moved. They could have given the coordinates of the enemy had these been requested. There was no rescue until very late in the afternoon. (Read: ‘No One Asked For Coordinates)
If the President was willing to pour fire and brimstone on the enemy, he would have told his AFP officers to bomb away. Those poor men, blamed for the deaths of the SAF, had the peace process in mind as they scotched tactics that would have scorched Mamasapano communities.
If the President was ready to sow destruction on those 3,000 to 4,000 enemies, why is he now appealing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Law?If the President was willing to bring that much destruction on the MILF, why is he asking Congress to reward them with the BBL?
(That is said with sorrow, because I truly believe the Bangsamoro deserve the right to self-determination. )
The Real Issue
All of Mr. Aquino’s lies are attempts to coverup the main question of accountability.
He has failed to answer this: Why did you insist on appointing a disgraced police chief to head such a sensitive operation (thousands of enemies!) with the potential to wreak death and destruction?
Purisima’s role was not limited to advise. He directed Napenas. He reported directly to Aquino during planning and as the bitter truth unfolded.
You lied, Mr. President. You deliberately created a shadow chain of command.
Spare us the old claim of having noble intentions. Even a global terrorist like Marwan is no excuse for whole-scale upending of systems aimed at defending our fragile democracy.
Shadow chains of command are the domains of tyrants and rogues. Especially when these are headed by people accused of serious crimes.
You betrayed this nation, Mr. President. Tama na, sobra na.