As we pray for the tens of thousands of Maguindanao residents fleeing homes in the aftermath of Mamasapano, let us demand that those who stirred the cauldron of death and suffering be held into account for their actions.
Leaders of the House of Representatives proved to be craven lapdogs of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III when they called off hearings after a lone session.
They made the decision after critical solons unearthed details showing Mr. Aquino’s role in the bloodshed. Even as they tried to bury the truth about Mamasapano, House leaders were summoned by Mr. Aquino to salvage the peace process he had torn to shreds.
At the Senate, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police accused each other for the deaths of the SAFs. Senators egged on the clashing AFP and PNP officers. They paid scant attention on the other fallen, including six civilians, one of whom bore the marks of torture.
While senators dissected military strategies and tactics, a clear pattern emerge: a concerted effort to limit accountability to military and police officers, and suspended national police chief Allan Purisima.
Allies of the President, especially Senate Franklin Drilon, clearly took their cues from a Chief Executive out to wash his hands of the blood of the fallen.
Mr. Aquino trained his hire on SAF Director Leo Napenas, accusing him of disobeying orders to coordinate with the AFP in the hunt for Malaysian Marwan and Usman Bassit.
The many officials of the military and civilian bureaucracies stalled as long as they could to hide the President’s exercise of direct oversight over the Mamasapano operations.
When Purisima’s role as head honcho of the Mamasapano operations could no longer be denied, Mr. Aquino tried to deflect responsibility by claiming his good friend had lied to him.
Most senators and the Mr. Aquino’s aides ignored the elephant in the room: That the Mamasapano tragedy stemmed from the President’s willful disregard of basic rules of accountability, and his insistence on favoring a disgraced police chief, to the extent of shutting out key officers who could have prevented the debacle.
Simply put, there would have been no opportunity for Purisima to lie had the President made good his campaign promise of “tuwid na daan.”
Purisima was on preventive suspension, facing serious graft charges. The President, who presents himself as warrior in chief against corruption, decided his friend was exempt from standards of accountability. He kept top national security officials in the dark. He elevated Purisima above all others; gifted him with a parallel chain of command.
The President sacrificed SAF men at the altar of law enforcement even as he spat at everything law enforcement stands for.
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.
There was also an effort to keep under wraps the full extent of the US’ role in Mamasapano. The shields of diplomacy, national security and the global war on terror must not be allowed to hamper the search for truth, including possible violations of admittedly flawed, unequal and unjust bilateral agreements.
Mamasapano is not just about 68 persons slain on January 25. Mamasapano is also about the thrashing of a fragile peace process. Above all, Mamasapano is a glaring example of the President’s willful violation of all tenets of good governance and accountability.
To ignore that would be a mockery of the Senate’s oversight functions. To ignore that would make lawmakers complicit in rewarding the corrupt.
Bsp. Deogracias Iñiguez
Atty. Vicente Joyas, President, Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Atty. Evalyn G. Ursua
Atty. Edre Olalia, Secretary General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Dr. Carol Araullo, Chairperson, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Atty. Roel Pulido
Atty. Ernesto Francisco, Jr.
Dr. Ramon Paterno, Pagbabago – People’s Movement for Change