Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mamasapano revives lost art of letter writing

It’s worthwhile to note that the Mamasapano incident/massacre, besides stirring sympathy for the victims and their families, has also revived the fading art of letter writing on public issues in this country.
In the Age of the Internet, I fear that people don’t care much anymore about writing good, strong letters about public affairs. As the new technology has made it easier for us to communicate more quickly our thoughts and feelings, it has also made many lazy. On social media, there are countless and avid correspondents, but sadly they don’t write well or think very much. They just vent their anger and prejudices.
I thought the letter of Mr. Mohagher Iqbal to Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the committee conducting the Senate inquiry on the tragedy, had the extraordinary quality of being both illuminating and chilling.
It awakened a dull inquiry to life. It impelled Bongbong Marcos to come up front, and remind the public that he is indeed his father’s son, not just in name, but in his concern for the national interest and public welfare.
Mendoza’s lucid intervention     
A journalist from another paper has kindly copied me a letter about Mamasapano sent to their paper by former Justice Secretary (during the Marcos presidency) and noted lawyer Estelito Mendoza, which for sheer good sense and lucidity should be read by all, including Manila Times readers.
So far as I can tell, Mendoza is not lawyering for any side in the conflict in the South or in the Senate inquiry. He contributed his note simply to assist the public to gain better understanding of key issues attendant to the incident in Mamasapano, and to help the government and the MILF to understand critical questions of law and policy.
He divides his letter into two parts.
First, he discusses what our government should immediately confirm in order to ease public concerns about the requirements of justice for the widows and orphans of the SAF 44.
This part of his letter reads as follows:
“To relieve unease and concerns as to what government may do to provide the ‘justice’ demanded by the widows and orphans of the 44 Special Action Force policemen and the entire nation, the executive department as well as the peace panel, should confirm the following facts:
“1. That all territory of the Philippines, as defined in the Constitution and relevant laws, are subject to the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines, including those occupied by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or other similar groups.
“2. That the MILF and similar groups and all those who compose them, are subject to the Constitution and to all laws of the Republic of the Philippines.”
You can’t be clearer than this; it clarifies our nagging questions about the MILF’s delusion that that it has its own territory in this country. It has none, so I hope President Aquino and the government peace panel will issue soonest a statement to this effect.
Two questions raised by Mamasapano
In the second part of his letter, Mendoza writes of two questions, independent and distinct from each other, that arise from the Mamasapano incident:
“First, the “killing,” “massacre,” “slaughter,” or by whatever name the incident may be described, of the 44 SAF members are criminal offenses under our laws. When a crime is committed, the question for determination is, who committed the crime?
So, according to Mendoza, “The process of investigation should be expeditiously concluded, prosecution should then be promptly commenced and trial speedily concluded. We should assure that the prosecution of those responsible for the killing of the 44 SAF policemen does not go in the same way as the prosecution of those responsible for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.”
This is the responsibility of the President, and the executive department. It flows directly from Aquino’s oath of office.
The second question is, how did the 44 SAF troopers get into a situation where they were apparently unable to put meaningful defense against the assault on them?
Mendoza explains this point as follows: “This issue must likewise be addressed by President Aquino as Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and as head of the executive department, of which the police force is an integral part.”
Mendoza fears that possible military shortcomings and the lobby for a “truth commission” have relegated the investigation of the killing of the SAF 44 and the prosecution of those responsible to the background.
Dureza belies need to coordinate with MILF
Another former public official and lawyer who has been moved to write letters on the Mamasapano tragedy is Jess Dureza, former press secretary and peace negotiator under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
One Dureza letter became the subject of a headline story of the Times. He was the first to alert the nation that government forces do not have to inform/coordinate with the MILF when they go after high-value targets in MILF enclaves.
Jess is part of the blog community called Advocacy Mindanow.
Private citizens sharing their thoughts and their expertise are an important part of our civic life. They help to make us in the media more alert and discerning. Even better, they help improve the quality and tone of government.
Peace process: A banana-peel word
I got some interesting feedback and letters on my column last Saturday, (“A government slipping badly on banana-peel words,” Times, February 7).
Some readers felt I should have included more words among the banana peel words listed on which the Aquino government is slipping.
One word on which we can agree is “peace process.”
The word is very slippery and seductive. It lulls us into a false sense of security because peace is on the way. Believe it or not, some people on the government payroll were more worried about the peace process than about the lives of our commandos in Mamasapano.
At the Senate inquiry, “peace process” was the go-to word whenever someone made a statement espousing a stronger policy in dealing with the MILF.
If “appeasement” was the limp-wrist response to Hitler in World War II, “peace process” is the limp wrist response to Muslim secession and insurgency under Benigno BS Aquino 3rd.
If we do not watch out, Aquino and his advisers could vault us into full-scale conflict with the MILF, while prattling peace process.
We need peacemakers, not peace processors.
Another term that could soon join the ranks of banana-peel words is “time on target.” It has become the standard excuse for the inexplicable failure to disclose the SAF operation in Mamasapano to the acting chief of the Philippine National Police Gen. Leonardo Espina and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.
Removed SAF commander Getulio Napeñas invokes it to defend his actions. Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima invokes it to explain his mysterious tack of providing “advice instead of orders” to the SAF mission in Mamasapano.
Purisima explained that the principle of “time-on-target,” means that information about a mission would only be disclosed when the operation was underway or when the operating unit was already at the target site. He said the plan for the Mamasapano operation stated that it should be done on this basis.
And yet every detail of the Mamasapano SAF operation was being relayed round the clock to the commander in chief himself, President Aquino.
This is the issue Grace Poe is dancing away from in declining to call the president to testify.

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