Truth in shades of gray?

- Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

The one big victim of the last few days of the Mamasapano hearings is credibility. Anyone listening to the Senate hearings with even an iota of brain matter will feel something is wrong… we are being taken for fools as we are supposedly told the truth, but in shades of gray.

Suspended SAF chief Napenas must do right for his fallen44. Never mind resigned PNP chief Purisima because we really don’t expect much from him anyway. Napenas seemed uneasy as he tried to protect his superiors by taking full blame. His unsupported claim of 250 MILF/BIFF killed isn’t helping his credibility.

Let us get this straight… Napenas said he, together with Purisima and the director of PNP intelligence, briefed P-Noy on the status of the Marwan plan. The last briefing happened in P-Noy’s Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang.

Napenas said at the end of the briefing he left the room and Purisima was left alone to confer with P-Noy.

“It was when he came out that Purisima told me, ‘Don’t tell the other two about this, just do it later when we’re there. I will take care of Gen. Catapang,’” Napeñas said. He identified the “other two” as PNP OIC Gen. Leonardo Espina and Sec. Mar Roxas.

What have we learned from that testimony? First, P-Noy was in the loop and knew more about the operations and is involved more than he is trying to make us believe. Second, Purisima was more than just someone P-Noy consulted. He was making presentations and calling some important shots even while he is supposed to be suspended and should not be involved in any police operations.

Purisima claims he was just giving advice. But Napenas saw how the President has involved Purisima. A two star general cannot be so stupid to not take the advice as an order. After all, didn’t Purisima just emerge from a close door meeting with P-Noy?

 Indeed that’s what Napenas told the House hearing. He said even if he didn’t hear P-Noy say so in so many words, he believed he had P-Noy’s tacit approval of the plan. Napenas saw how P-Noy was reacting to both his presentation, and to Purisima and that’s as good as a go signal from the commander in chief.

Napenas was also insisting he acted on his own, gamely taking the role of the fall guy for both P-Noy and Purisima. But it is not credible. If he is not reporting to PNP OIC Gen. Leonardo Espina because he was advised not to do so by Purisima, he must be reporting to P-Noy.

Indeed, P-Noy said he was talking directly to the SAF commander. That’s because P-Noy is trying to help Purisima escape possible usurpation of authority charges for working during a suspension.

But Napenas was also earlier reported to have admitted to Sec. Roxas that he was reporting to Purisima. This is more confusing than a teleserye.

Covering up for one man is complicated enough. Covering up for two spells trouble. So that explains why the stories got mixed up. It is not easy to spin a tale that’s not exactly true and get all the details consistently right.

P-Noy should have told his story as it happened from the start. We would have understood a good explanation and his credibility not put to the test. It would have been perfectly alright for P-Noy to say he was in on the plan and is assuming responsibility for the outcome.

It was wrong for P-Noy to try to make it look like an ordinary police operation to serve a warrant that did not require his final approval. The SAF chief would have been totally irresponsible to put the lives of almost 400 men in harms way without clearance from the top, tacit or otherwise. That’s too much for the conscience of one man to bear.

The exchange of accusations between the PNP and the AFP is the other worrisome thing. SAF’s lack of trust of the AFP has a serious implication on their ability to preserve peace and protect our national security.

For ordinary citizens, who do we believe? Are we safe from the enemies of the state? Given the fairly long window of the 12-hour firefight, it seems the SAF44 were abandoned to be slaughtered and we want to know who is responsible… Purisima? Napenas? AFP? P-Noy?

Beyond failure to coordinate, was there a deliberate decision to sacrifice the 44? There should have been ample opportunity to save them now that we know 300 SAF troopers were a mere three kilometers away waiting for Godot along Maharlika Highway.

During the House hearing, AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. General Rustico Guerrero was asked about a text message he sent to Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander Major General Edmundo Pangilinan. The text to Gen. Pangilinan said “Best effort without endangering our reinforcing troops per guidance from President. Ensure no friendly fires…”

Maybe P-Noy had good reason for giving that order, but he has to explain because as is, it sounds like he sacrificed the SAF44. Best efforts doesn’t sound determined enough. Maybe the consideration is to prevent more lives from being lost on the part of the rescuers.

Because the credibility of P-Noy and the SAF commander has been seriously questioned, it is now easier to believe the worse. Is it also true that P-Noy was in a command center in Zamboanga with Defense Sec. Gazmin and Sec. Roxas watching the carnage via a US drone? Did he give that order for the AFP to stand down due to fears the peace process would be derailed and endanger his Nobel Peace Prize chances?

Napenas owes it to his fallen44 to just tell his story with no regard as to who gets hurt even if he is among those who should be faulted. Hopefully the tearful Napenas during the House hearing heralds a Napenas ready to tell it all.

Indeed, I suspected a cover up when it took P-Noy almost four days before he had the nerve to explain to the people what happened. It takes a while to craft a good cover story. It is simpler to tell the story as it happened.

In his public explanation, P-Noy seemed too evasive and trying hard to shield himself and his bosom buddy Purisima from legal liabilities. But it is a futile effort because people see through the charade and he lost not just brownie points, but also credibility.

A political leader’s most important stock in trade is credibility. Telling the truth in various shades of gray is risky. Once people start to feel the President is no longer believable, the beginning of the end follows. People are never happy to be taken for fools.

Lesson learned: A President should never risk betraying the public’s trust. Even before he gets impeached for such a betrayal, the public would have impeached him already in their hearts. And what is a leader if he no longer enjoys the confidence of those he is leading?

Datu Paglas

I e-mailed former Agriculture Sec. Senen Bacani at the suggestion of Dr. Rolly Dy of UAP to get the latest on the Paglas banana operation. Perhaps due to the demands on his time because of the peace process of which he is a part, the response of Sec.Bacani got to me too late for inclusion in my column last Wednesday.

I asked Sec. Bacani how the current strife in Maguindanao is affecting the operations of the banana plantation. His response is very positive, which proves my point about using the weapon of economics in fighting the insurgency.

“We are not affected at all. We have always stated as a matter of fact that over the last 18 years of our operation in Maguindanao, we haven’t had a single day of interruption either due to labor, or peace and order problem.

“We have above average production per hectare in the industry. Over the past year, we have expanded the plantation by another 300 hectares bringing the total to 1,300 hectares. We have renewed up to 2031 half of the original plantation and plan to renew the balance in the next two years.”

Economic issue

A foreign chamber official said the Mamasapano issue is more economic than we realize. “At our luncheon yesterday – MBC and Am/Cham – Bill Luz stated none of the APEC meetings can be held anywhere in Mindanao because of travel advisories of several APEC members.

“Foreign tourism and foreign investment in the poorest provinces can help but can’t happen until peace is established and maintained.”

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco










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