POSTSCRIPT / February 10, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Gen. Alan Purisima, sir, that was an order!

QUIBBLING: Was suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima giving advice or an order to the Special Action Force commander when he told the latter not to inform acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas before the Mamasapano operation of Jan. 25?

From where I sat yesterday watching the Senate inquiry into Mamasapano, Purisima was obviously quibbling when he insisted he was merely advising, not ordering, then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas not to tell Espina and Roxas.

Purisima was equivocating. To me, my commander’s wish is a command. If he turns to me and indicates he needs a cold beer, that is an order — and I will produce the cold beer!

But to Purisima (PMA “Dimalupig” Class of 1981), that clear and direct instruction to Napeñas (PMA “Sandigan” Class of 1982) was not a command but mere advice!

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TWIN TASKS: It was also satisfying to hear Sen. Gregorio Honasan (baron of PMA Class 1971) remind Purisima in the same hearing of a point that we happened to have underscored in our Feb. 1 Postscript, where we wrote:

“We were taught way back that a military leader has twin responsibilities: accomplishing his mission, and looking after his men.

“The twin tasks go together. If the commander captures the objective but loses his men, he fails. If he coddles his men and misses his target, he also is a failure.”

It is sometimes said that even if the SAF lost 44 of its elite commandos it was worth it because they got their target Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. Tell that to the bereaved widows and the grieving families of the Fallen44.

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FOLLOWING THE STAR: Overwhelmed by his felt duty to protect Purisima for whatever reason and, by extension, his Commander-in-Chief the President, Napeñas acts like he feels compelled to take the fall.

The friendly reminder of Sen. Grace Poe, who was presiding over the Senate hearing, that Napeñas stood to lose his retirement benefits and may even face charges, failed to redirect him from his “I take responsibility” stance.

This despite it being clear that at the time Purisima was giving his advice or order to bypass Espina and Roxas, he was already out of the chain of command having been suspended by the Sandiganbayan.

Napeñas has not explained why he doggedly followed Purisima, going with him to the conferences with President Aquino. These high-level meetings must have given him the impression he was following the right star — and that Purisima and the President would protect him.

* * *

NOY COULD, BUT DIDN’T: It was clear from the revelations so far made, including those of Napeñas, that the Commander-in-Chief and Purisima both knew all along what was going on in the execution of Oplan Exodus to get Marwan.

One problem of Napeñas was that when the pile of SAF casualties were being counted, he looked around — and the President and Purisima were no longer beside him. In fact, Purisima is now saying the responsibility for the debacle was Napeñas’.

It may soon dawn on Napeñas that President Aquino and Purisima could not have been unaware that the main SAF force has been blocked that dawn of Sunday in its withdrawal after taking down the man presumed to be Marwan.

Could not the President have stepped in as supreme commander and “father” of his SAF children and ordered the armed forces, whose units were already positioned in nearby locations, to rush to the succor of the beleaguered commandos?

Why didn’t he?

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WILY ENEMY: Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front must now be laughing in their safe houses after watching on TV how police and military authorities washed dirty linen and disclosed tactical secrets before the Senate and the whole world.

While three Cabinet secretaries (of defense, DILG and justice) arrived promptly for the hearing, MILF leaders including its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal snubbed it. They insulted the Senate by sending a minor factotum who could not give authoritative answers or make commitments.

It is becoming increasingly clearer that the secessionist MILF has never respected, except in press releases, the Philippine government.

That is probably because the wily enemy of the state is far wiser than the amateurs sent by President Aquino to talk to them in Kuala Lumpur. Nobody in Malacañang ever bothered to ask if the MILF could be trusted?

* * *

BASIC FLAWS: The events unfolding after the Mamasapano Massacre are slowly validating some of the basic points we have been discussing in Postscript since two years ago.

Caught in the rush of things, nobody in the Palace bothered to check the credentials of the MILF, a secessionist band that broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front after accusing its chairman Nur Misuari of having been coopted into settling for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

The MILF has never shown, that it is the sole and legitimate representative of the Muslim minority in Mindanao.

Checking the credentials and motivations of the party across the negotiating table is basic, but the Palace never bothered – or was afraid — to do that.

One of the senators in yesterday’s hearing also raised another point we have been harping on since last year: that Malacañang cannot presume to speak for and commit the other two branches of our tripartite government because there were no prior consultations with them.

To be correct about it, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that serves as basis for the Bangsamoro Basic Law being pushed by Malacañang through the Congress is not an agreement between the Muslim sector and the government.

It is just a contract, unconstitutional at that, between the rebel group MILF only and Malacañang only.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 10, 2015)

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