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Friday, March 20, 2015

Not at all sorry


By Jojo Robles
It’s not going to happen. So quit asking him to apologize already.
Like the old Chicago song goes, it’s awfully hard for President Noynoy Aquino to say he’s sorry. And I’m betting, despite all the pressure and the obvious political expediency of apologizing for the Mamasapano massacre, he’s not doing it.
The word from Malacanang’s press office, as expressed by the ever-brilliant Abigail Valte, is that the President has already accepted responsibility for the deaths of 44 commandos from the Special Action Force, so there’s nothing new in the committee report drafted by Senator Grace Poe and signed, as of last count, by 18 senators as of late yesterday. But Valte also went out on a limb – and an unstable branch it was – when she opined that Aquino had violated no law.
But let’s try to put Valte’s legal argument (and she is, after all, a lawyer) in another context: Why would it be illegal for Makati Mayor Junjun Binay to ignore an order for his suspension from the Office of the Ombudsman but not violative of any law for Aquino to employ the services of a suspended (on corruption charges, no less) PNP chief in a dangerous commando extaction operation?
The palace’s protestations that Aquino broke no law sound so similar to its “good faith” argument to justify a patently illegal – as declared by no less than the Supreme Court – Disbursement Acceleration Program, it’s actually pathetic. Just because Aquino accepted responsibility for Mamasapano and broke no law in sending 44 SAF commandos to their deaths, can we now (as Senate President Franklin Drilon once famously advised) move on?
I don’t think so. Even on the matter of violating none of the laws of the land, Valte is being presumptuous; that is a matter for the courts to decide, after Aquino loses his immunity from suit next year, and not for some spokesman who was just sent on a errand to buy some vinegar and ended up in Malacanang, as the Tagalog saying tells us.
As for apologizing, I don’t really know if following the advice of former President Fidel Ramos is going to help Aquino any, this late. If he does apologize, many people who have long given up on him will not believe that he is sincere; his adherents will note that he isn’t saying sorry because he means it, either, and will merely join the ranks of those who have already abandoned him.
And saying sorry, in Aquino’s world, is just a heartbeat away from accepting blame, error and wrongdoing. So he’ll pass.
Besides, on almost a genetic level, Aquino is not the kind of guy who will apologize for anything, regardless of the mess he’s created. As I’ve already said, it’s just not how he rolls.
As for Ramos, perhaps he should just take Aquino’s advice and write the current President a memo. And if that memo ever gets to Valte, I’m sure she will analyze the legalities and come up with her own opinion on why the memo should just be ignored.
* * *
The political scientist and professor Antonio Contreras has written an opinion on the ongoing crisis at Makati City Hall that bears serious consideration. I am quoting his short note in full here:
“I am not a lawyer even if I am a student of political science, so I asked some lawyer friends and even consulted a judge. And this is what I got.
“The argument that the Temporary Restraining Order (or Status Quo Ante) issued by the Court of Appeals is already moot and academic simply because the suspension order has been served is pure hogwash.
“What was restrained is the act of suspension and not just the act of serving the order. Furthermore, even if the order has been served and implemented, it can still be undone and the state of things can be restored to its status prior to the order now being restrained (i.e., the suspension). It is unlike a TRO issued against the demolition of a building that is mooted when it is already demolished.
“I can understand if Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas is ignorant of this. And when I asked why Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, both of whom are lawyers, seem to have a different opinion, I got a uniform response from my resource persons.
“They say it is no longer an issue of law but one of politics. And it is simply wrong. De Lima and Morales should even be cited for contempt, according to a couple of them.”
* * *
Amante “Amang” Bigornia, journalist par excellence, died this week at 98. Amang was a legendary reporter, columnist and writer who covered every President from Ramon Magsaysay to Joseph Estrada. Before that, he was already a hero, having fought in the historic Battle of Bessang Pass during World War II.
I watched Amang up close when he wrote for this newspaper nearly two decades ago, amazed by his devotion to his craft. In an era when journalists have become celebrities, Amang enjoyed only the well-deserved adulation of his peers – which to many in the trade is really the more important achievement.

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