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Friday, March 13, 2015

A cock and bull story



A highly informed source at the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force has denounced as a pure “cock and bull story” the alleged three hour-plus “bull session” between President B. S. Aquino 3rd and the SAF commandos before last Wednesday’s assumption of command by Chief Superintendent Moro Virgilio Lazo as the new SAF commander. The bull session was supposed to have taken place behind closed doors at the SAF Headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City (Metro Manila) while, at the open-air quadrangle fronting the headquarters, the top PNP officials reportedly waited for Aquino to finish.
“I was there the whole time,” said the source, “and I saw no such ‘three-hour bull session.’ The President stayed for not more than a few minutes after talking to PO2 Christopher Lalan, (the lone survivor of the Jan. 25 massacre in which 44 SAF commandos were killed by the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). The President walked out in a huff after Lalan told him, ‘The SAF are very much disappointed in you, Sir, and expect you to resign’,” the source said.
The various Manila dailies had carried the same story about the supposed three-hour bull session without any mention of Lalan. They did not quote any official source for their story, but made it appear that the press reporters were outside the hall when the alleged bull session was going on, and were later fed by “sources” on what had transpired inside. The bylined stories reported the SAF men talking to Aquino about the system of promotion, hazard pay, equipment, benefits, training, the use of “ antiquated bullets,” and other “concerns.”
SAF’s only known demand— resign, Mr. President
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, whom Aquino had shut out of the PNP chain of command during the Mamasapano operation, was later quoted as saying the President had directed that the SAF demands be complied with in 30 days. What demands are these? Our source said the only demand he had heard was from Lalan—that Aquino resign. “Does Roxas mean we should now expect Aquino to quit in 30 days?” the source asked.
If what our source is saying is all correct, and I do not doubt it, then the attempt to lie to the nation has become total. The public can no longer trust even apparently harmless and supposedly non-controversial news stories about the simplest official activity of government. The beleaguered Aquino regime lies about everything, and has made not only the Congress and the Cabinet its principal partners and instruments in it, but also the uncritical press.
I myself was led to routinely repeat the cock and bull story in my Friday column (Crisis of survival deepens, March 6) without the slightest suspicion it was a complete fraud. In my 50 years in journalism, I have not had to go through anything like it. I humbly apologize to my readers.
What is of immense value, however, is that the SAF has taken a stand, although it has not been widely reported so far. Even Aquino’s former defenders and allies on the Left are also making the same call. Many other groups have since come out reiterating the call of the National Transformation Council for Aquino and his entire regime to “step down” and allow a multi-sectoral caretaker council to take over and fix the broken constitutional order before we hold our next national elections.
44-km march for justice
At this writing, a 44-km March for Justice, organized by the PNP Academy Alumni Association for the Fallen 44, is on the road from Salitran, Dasmarinas, Cavite to the PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Led by PNPAAA board chair Tomas Rentoy, and Rev. Fr. Robert Reyes, known to many as the “running priest,” and several others, the march is supposed to end the official 40-day mourning period for the Fallen 44. It will end in an ecumenical service at Claret School in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City. PNPAAA Chapter President Senior Superintendent Jerome Baxinela has called on the PNPAAA members not to join the march, but even non-PNP related groups had been calling on citizens en route to offer the marchers water and food when they pass, and if possible to also join the march.
If successful, this march could push the calls for Aquino’s departure to the next level. Until now, he and his propagandists have argued that nothing in the Constitution requires him to step down before the end of June 2016. Aquino should know that he is beaten. He had long become thoroughly impeachable for all his crimes, but has avoided impeachment and removal only because the members of Congress, who have the exclusive power to impeach, were his accomplices in the commission of those crimes.
A case of treason
To those crimes has now been added the charge of treason as a result of the Mamasapano massacre. Some of the bereaved families of the Fallen 44 have raised this charge unofficially against him, for denying reinforcement to the 44. To them, this act was equivalent to taking the side of the enemy during the massacre. He has tried to ignore the accusation; but he is not the first Aquino to be accused of treason.
Marcos once denounced his father, the late former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., of “treason,” for exposing without any justifiable motive a top-secret government plan to send political assets to Sabah in order to bolster the Filipino presence in the territory, which is the subject of a Philippine legal claim. During the war, Ninoy’s own father (PNoy’s grandfather) was accused of collaborating with the Japanese while the Filipinos were fighting side by side with the Americans. He was arrested in Tokyo, brought back to be tried in Manila, but died while watching a boxing match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium before he could be tried.
The charge of treason has since been made official by lawyer Homobono Adaza and newspaperman columnist Herman Tiu Laurel who filed a complaint against Aquino and several other officials before the Ombudsman last week, although on different grounds. They denounced as “treasonous”Aquino’s official acts related to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which seeks to carve out a separate territory for the Islamic rebel organization through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (Babala), now pending in Congress. Aquino remains undeterred in his push for the Babala, despite the public outcry against it and the MILF.
A matter of honor
Even if the Constitution does not require him to quit, and nobody had called for his resignation or stepping down for all his previous sins against the people, after Mamasapano, he did not need a single protester or lone survivor to tell him to step down. He should have done so on his own immediately thereafter. In any civilized country, that’s what the head of government would have done. He would have apologized to the nation, resigned, and accepted all the consequences, particularly if he had been in charge of the wretched operation. A Japanese defense minister once resigned after a military aircraft accidentally grazed the wing of a civilian aircraft while parking. It is a question of self-respect and honor.
The free fall
“Like a helicopter that has run out of fuel, Aquino is now on a free fall,” said one Palace source. “His advisers sit in stony silence, as if shell-shocked, looking at the ceiling without saying anything to each other, as though someone in their family had died, while Aquino smokes and drinks and plays video games. Of course, his last video game was at Mamasapano and it cost us 44 of our best trained policemen. If he had not been functioning at all as president from the very beginning, he has for all intents and purposes vacated his job now. He has not even been sleeping at the Palace, but rather at the private residence of one of his sisters. He could develop serious depression and eventually break down,” the source said.
This leaves us this question: who is minding the store? No one.
Time to pray?
Today, several paper organizations would be hosting a peace assembly in Malacañang in an effort to shore up Aquino’s rapidly sinking morale. The assembly is reportedly organized by “Teach peace, build peace movement,” “Young Moro Professionals Network,” and “All out Peace Network,” all of doubtful existence. Invited are members of the Armed Forces, the PNP, MILF, religious leaders, academe, civil society, “civilians,” youth, Muslims and “peace advocates.”
The presence of “religious leaders” suggests that the assembly would be offering prayers. This is probably to allay any suspicion that Aquino had turned atheist or pagan, although he might be just a little confused about whether or not someone in his godhood should still worry about praying. But the Catholic bishops, religious and clergy appear to have been excluded. Why? Just because many of them are in the National Transformation Council? They constitute the overwhelming majority, and they regularly pray for Aquino, every day. I can attest to it, for although I want him out on moral and constitutional grounds, I always include him in my prayers.
The only possible explanation, it seems, is that the proposed assembly is a purely partisan political activity, meant to assure Aquino that he could ignore the rising clamor for him to step down and just dig in. This doesn’t make sense anymore. His best move is not to await his fate inside his bunker but to negotiate his way out and try to help in facilitating the transition that would restore the devastated constitutional order. And the time for it is now.
Obviously he is afraid of going to jail. He need not be. For although he has jailed his predecessor and three members of the Senate opposition, while protecting all his sycophants and cronies from far more serious accountabilities, it need not follow that the next government would do to him what he did to his victims. Under our laws, he could still avoid any culpability for anything and everything he has done– from his corruption of Congress in order to railroad the Reproductive Health Law and to impeach and remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona; to the gross manipulation and misuse of the budget through the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP); to the denial of reinforcement to the SAF 44—if his defense lawyers could but prove the psychological equivalent of what our Lord said of his executioners on the Cross at Mount Calvary: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”
fstatad@gmail.com

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