Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In a time of deceit, a heroic act

By Val G. Abelgas

SAF-Aquino-necrological-services.2Novelist George Orwell once said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

In this context, we can say that the Board of Inquiry tasked to determine the facts about the botched operation to hunt two wanted terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last month that led to the death of 44 members of PNP’s Special Action Force did a revolutionary act, in fact a courageous and honorable one.

Despite intense pressure from Malacanang and ranking officials and despite its limitations, the BOI, which was headed by Police Director Benjamin Magalong, did an excellent job of presenting the facts of the case in a concise report that spared no one — from President Aquino, to suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, to sacked SAF chief Police Director Getulio Napenas, to the MILF rebels.

Indeed, the days after the tragic clash with combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bagsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that also led to the death of 23 rebels and civilians, was a “time of deceit” with government officials and police and military officers pointing fingers as to who was responsible for the carnage.

Based on the findings of the BOI, it appeared President Aquino had been lying all along about his and his friend Purisima’s involvement in the planning and operation of the Mamasapano mission.

In the third chapter of the BOI’s report, it said that Aquino’s recent claims contradicted with his statements in the January 28 press briefing in Malacanang on the role of Purisima in the mission against international terrorists.

The BOI compiled the remarks Aquino made when he lambasted Napenas last March 5 as well as his SMS exchanges with Purisima.

“At one point during the press briefing, the President stated that he was on top of the hunt for Marwan and company for several months. The President also denied the involvement of the suspended CPNP Purisima in Oplan Exodus. However, in the succeeding Senate hearings, suspended CPNP Purisima admitted that he was accountable for Oplan Exodus,” the report said.

The police probers also said Aquino “had knowledge of the details of Oplan Exodus” contrary to his initial claim denying his direct involvement in the operation.

“In the same press briefing, when the President was asked for a categorical answer if he gave the go signal for Oplan Exodus, the President did not directly address the question and replied that the question was rhetorical. He further said “tinutulungan ako ni General Purisima,” it added.

But during Aquino’s meeting with evangelical church leaders on Monday, the President confirmed that he approved Oplan Exodus, the covert mission that claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force commandos.

To prove their point, the BOI cited the President’s harsh remark against Napenas, quoting him as saying: “kung alam ko na ganito ang gagawin niya (Napenas) from the start, ay hinindian ko ho itong misyon na to and “kung alam ko ho yung parte ng planong yon, hindi na natin inapprove.”
The BOI said Aquino’s remark was supported by text messages that the President sent to suspended Purisima while the encounter was ongoing. “The SMS messages show that the President had knowledge of the details of Oplan Exodus,” it said.

In stressing that Aquino had direct involvement in the bungled operation, the report said, “The President gave the go-signal and allowed the execution of Oplan Exodus after the concept of operations (CONOPS) was presented to him by Director of Special Action Force (SAF) Police Director Getulio Napenas.”

The BOI report said the President broke the chain of command. “While the President has the prerogative to deal directly with any of his subordinates, the act of dealing with Napenas instead of [PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo] Espina bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command,” the report added.

“The President allowed the participation of the suspended Chief, Philippine National Police (CPNP) Police Director General Alan Purisima in the planning and execution of the Oplan Exodus despite the suspension order of the Ombudsman,” another conclusion said.

The board analyzed two critical aspects of the mission: the planning stage in which they insinuated that the operation had very little chance of success, and the actual execution in which they hinted that the operation should have been aborted at the earliest opportunity.

While some observers noted that the report failed to answer some questions apparently for lack of time (they were given one month to wrap up the investigation) and for their failure to interview Aquino, Purisima and the military ground commander in Maguindanao, the police probers were able to present the more important facts of the case that should shed light on why the mission led to the massacre, who were responsible for the failure, and who were involved in the planning and execution of the mission.”

On the day the report was made public, Malacanang was quick to dismiss it as a product of “mere speculation” and the PNP rebuffed its claim that Aquino broke the chain of command.
But the BOI probers stood by their findings. They said they scrutinized every piece of evidence and all the statements of survivors and came out with conclusions that spared no one who may be held liable for the operation that resulted in the slaughter of 44 SAF operatives on that fateful day.

Former PNP chief and former Senator Panfilo Lacson praised Magalong for the report: “Your career ends when you retire; your character stays until the day you die. You can’t go wrong with the truth.”

Going back to Orwell’s quote: “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” And if might add, a heroic one. Just like the heroic stand of the SAF 44 and all the soldiers who set out and accomplished their mission but were left out in the cold.


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