Sunday, March 8, 2015

Buyer’s remorse

By Florencio Fianza 
According to Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, the Bangsamoro Basic Law is bigger than Mamasapano. Had he used the word peace being bigger than Mamasapano, many would have agreed with him. But the BBL? What a poor choice of words.
It is truly amazing that Secretary Lacierda has that uncanny ability of making a situation worse than it already is. In his latest interaction with the press, he completely avoided answering direct questions. More than once, he tried to put a spin on very simple questions. He should just stop his futile attempts to exonerate his boss.
Besides, as Senator Serge Osmeña already said in an interview, the public has already made up its mind as to who the guilty party is. The good senator who used to be a staunch supporter of President went on to say in the same interview that he now regrets ever supporting Mr. Aquino. Yes, it has taken more than four years for him to say that but there are many people like him who feel betrayed by the President.
This is a classic case of buyer’s remorse. Because of the suggestion of Senator Osmeña that the President should apologize, there are now moves from some quarters to convince and allow the President to do just that. This is not a good idea. My take on his authorizing General Purisima to take charge of Oplan Exodus is that it was a violation of the law. The President must therefore answer for it -- if not possible now that he is in office, then after he leaves office. 
Forty-four lives cannot be simply swept away because of the burgling of someone, even if he is the Commander in Chief. Very soon, many of the government agencies investigating the Mamasapano encounter will release their findings with the public very apprehensive because of the real possibility of a whitewash. The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry will be releasing its findings tomorrow. The public is eagerly waiting for the results of this investigation in spite of the fact that President Aquino has already declared General Leo Napeñas at fault. General Benjie Magalong, the head of the BOI, is a capable officer but let us hope that there was no pressure exerted on him to deodorize his findings.  If there was,let us hope that he was strong enough to resist such pressure.
With regard to the Department of Justice investigation, I do not know what will come out of it. Is the object of the investigation simply to file charges against those who killed the SAF personnel even if they were already defenseless, or also try to find who is at fault in managing Oplan Exodus? I hope that the Justice Department will simply limit its investigation to the criminal aspect of the Mamasapano encounter and not dwell into matters on which it is not competent.
The Senate hearings, as we know, were done in aid of legislation. But the report will also be important because of its political implications —especially if it deals with the participation of the President. My guess is that the committee will try to sidestep the President’s participation and dwell more on Generals Purisima and Napeñas, together with the rescue effort by the Army. The committee might also include the actions of the MILF but will see how far it will go regarding that.
The Chairman of the Committee has said that there was somehow fault in everyone. Let us hope that she includes the participation of the President because that is all that the public wants to know. Without it, there will be no closure.
Before the Mamasapano encounter of January 25, the Philippine National Police Special Action Force was little known to the public. Now, the public has embraced the SAF, the counter-insurgency and elite unit of the PNP.
But before the SAF, there was the Philippine Constabulary Brigade which was the principal arm of the Constabulary in the insurgency and secessionist wars of the 1970s. The PC brigade lost a lot of good men at the height of the MNLF rebellion. But towards the second quarter of 1983, the PC Brigade was abolished. It was the casualty of the existing tensions that existed within the Armed Forces of the Philippines during that time.
I remember quite clearly how it happened because I was the one who took the telephone call in a hotel room in Washington D.C. in early April 1983. The one at the other end of the line was the late General Baltazar Aguirre, the PC Chief of Staff. He told me that the PC Brigade was just disbanded on orders from the AFP General Headquarters. I told him to better tell the- General Ramos himself who was accompanying then-Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile to the United States. When General Ramos took the phone, there was complete silence for over a minute before he could utter something. I heard him tell General Aguirre to go ahead with the deactivation of the PC Brigade. When he got back to the Philippines, however, he organized the SAF.
Today, the SAF is composed of about 4,500 officers and men, with eight battalions composed of five companies each. Compared to its predecessor, the SAF is now better equipped. Its recruits are better educated. Today, a new commander has been appointed to replace General Napeñas in the person of General Moro Virgilio Lazo who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1984. He is a good choice and will be inducted today.
One wonders, however, why the President would prioritize the appointment of a permanent SAF Commander over the appointment of a permanent Chief of the PNP which is clearly more important.

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