POSTSCRIPT / February 12, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Aquino himself must answer the questions

TELL THE PEOPLE: It is time President Noynoy Aquino himself stepped into the debate that has roiled the nation since 44 PNP Special Action Forces men were killed serving a warrant on a high-value terrorist near a Moro Islamic Liberation Front village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Ongoing investigations, including those in the Senate and the House, have raised many disturbing questions that only the President can answer directly.

Most people following the televised congressional inquiries and keeping tabs on mainstream and social media think they already know the answers. But it will be best if they hear directly from the President, the father of this bleeding nation.

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QUESTIONS: Some of the questions begging for answer from President Aquino:

• Did the President give the go signal for the Mamasapano operation of Jan. 25 that then SAF commander Getulio Napeñas carried out without prior knowledge of his superior, acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina, and without coordination with the armed forces?

• The President, who has had continuing updates, knew all along what was ongoing at Mamasapano. When apprised that SAF forces were being massacred that Sunday why did the Commander-in-Chief not order the armed forces to rush to their rescue?

• Why did the President bypass the PNP chain of command and dealt with suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima and not through PNP officer-in-charge Espina?

• Why must well-trained men in their prime die unnecessarily because of the negligence, lack of concern or incompetence of their leaders?

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CRUEL EXECUTION: The bloody waters flowing from Mamasapano are building up in a watershed that, if not properly managed, could swamp the Aquino administration and the entire nation.

The President – we presume he watches TV — could not have missed PNP OIC Espina holding back tears and former SAF commander Napeñas weeping as Espina recalled before the House yesterday how their men were mercilessly finished off.

In impassioned remarks, Espina told the hushed Congress hearing that he saw the other night the autopsy reports showing that many of his SAF men were not fatally hit but were executed with shots to the head.

The emotional moment would have hung over the House more heavily had an attempt not been foiled to show a video clip capturing the cruel execution of the commandos despite the rebels’ seeing the wounded men’s police uniforms and PNP patches.

The company commander of the PNP officers shown in the video clip being executed confirmed that they were his men on the Mamasapano mission.

* * *

P-NOY OKAY: In response to repeated questions about his bypassing his immediate superior in the PNP, Napeñas confirmed for the nth time that President Aquino had impliedly approved the operation code-named Oplan Exodus.

He said that throughout their many presentations to the Chief Executive — the last one on Jan. 9 at theBahay Pangarap – the President never disapproved the plan, implying it was “okay” with him.

Napeñas also said Purisima’s instructions to him not to tell Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas had the blessings of the President.

Exodus is the last version of the continuing operation plan to get Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. Earlier raids had been aborted because of leaks, according to Napeñas, that occurred after coordination was made with the armed forces.

There was even a time when the AFP tried getting Marwan themselves, he said. If true, how come the MILF got alerted when the PNP “coordinated” with the armed forces?

In their planning, btw, the MILF was always listed under the “enemy” column. Obviously, the SAF does not trust the MILF.

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U.S. ROLE?: Since nobody is willing to offer answers, President Aquino is left to address the question over the nature and degree of involvement of US personnel in the operations to capture Marwan, who had a $5-million reward on his head.

Questions on the US role are being suppressed in public inquiries on Mamasapano. There appears to be a concerted attempt to black out all information on this aspect of the botched operation.

Even questions about drones, a white aircraft seen hovering above Mamasapano and the ready presence of US Federal Bureau of Investigation men to receive the severed finger of the man believed to be Marwan are always blocked. Why?

Catching criminals is a local police matter, supposedly beyond the interference of any foreign country except when covered by a proper agreement.

There is speculation that since the US cannot operate directly on Philippine soil, the government, at the highest level, had agreed to do it. Were then the poor SAF commandos sent to Mamasapano on a US errand? What was the deal?

* * *

MILF BUYS TIME: Until yesterday the MILF had not sent a top-level representative, like maybe its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, to the Senate and House hearings.

As a result, Malacañang negotiators testifying in the hearings end up appearing like defending the good intentions of the MILF, their opposite number in the peace talks.

The standard excuse of the MILF leadership for not appearing in congressional inquiries is that they are still making their own investigation.

So while the government side is ventilated in great detail before a watching world, the MILF has time to craft more carefully its responses to possible questions when (if) they appear before congressional committees.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 12, 2015)

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