Can PNP, AFP still trust each other after massacre?

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The STAR Associate Editor Doreen Yu put it succinctly: “Seventy percent of our misery is caused by the DOTC.”

Take a slice of life of OFW Juan dela Cruz. Homebound, his plane circles above NAIA for half an hour, unable to land due to runway congestion. So much fuel wasted; no wonder airfares remain high. The problem has been festering for years. Transport Sec. Joseph Abaya has ignored a private firm’s offer to pave another runway at no cost to government. He refuses to make nearby Clark International Airport an extension of NAIA, for it happens to be named after the father of the predecessor whom his boss President Noynoy hates so much.

Nightfall at the arrival terminal Juan and a seatmate find the money exchanges closed. Abaya’s uniformed NAIA policeman offers to convert their cash to pesos, at swindler rates. The seatmate hails an airport taxi and gets ripped off again, by the cabbie, the cop’s brother.

Juan’s son picks him up, by van with no license plate. Abaya had contracted inept plate makers: a Filipino blacklisted for forgery and an undercapitalized Dutch financier. The son has just renewed his driving license, a mere paper receipt since Abaya’s agency ran out of plastic cards months ago. Juan’s wife couldn’t come to welcome him; she’s down with urinary tract infection from holding her bladder through daily traffic. Juan and son plow through three hours of megalopolis gridlock to home. The cause of it is the rundown commuter rail. Abaya, president of the ruling Liberals, keeps granting the maintenance to inept party-mates.

Juan sails to the province to visit his parents. The rickety wooden-hulled launch should have been grounded years ago, but Abaya’s maritime factotums keep taking bribes to renew its operating permit. No toilets work at the piers. Abaya has diverted to only he knows what the money for hundreds of such basic facilities. Juan gets a taste of what the left-behinds have to endure everyday, courtesy of Abaya’s dysfunction: reckless jeepney and drug-crazed bus drivers, mulcting inspectors of the flying school where the son works, life-threatening train rides.

Sen. Grace Poe, head of the public services committee, proposes the least that Abaya deserves: to be charged with criminal neglect. But Deputy Presidential Spokesman Elmer Fudd cries “foul,” squawking that anyone who wants to help must suggest and not condemn. Duh?

Back meanwhile at NAIA for his flight out, Juan falls victim to “tanim-bala” extortion by Abaya’s airport security screeners. He is lucky to be milked of “only” P30,000 to avoid flight offloading. His seatmate had had to pay triple, for his shakedown was by graver “tanim-droga.”

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Worrisome was the claim of Defense Sec. Gazmin and AFP ex-chief Catapang at the Senate re-inquiry into Mamasapano. Supposedly they receive many cell-phone texts of armed clashes everyday. They didn’t mind the one about the SAF in the early hours of Jan. 25, 2015, because it was just another one of those.

But generals (and journalists who cover them, like I used to) know that isn’t so. An Operations Group at AFP-GHQ in Camp Aguinaldo sends out such texts. More than that, it monitors the unfolding of every skirmish it reports out. Any that lasts more than 30 or 60 minutes is red-flagged. It means “the enemy” has not disengaged, likely because it is of superior strength than, say, the AFP or PNP unit being ambushed. More texts are then beeped to the top brass, who should sit down to assess if heavier assets  – artillery, tanks, aircraft – need to be dispatched.

Last week’s hearing looked rehearsed. Quoting sources, SAF ex-Gen. Napeñas said the Army officers spent two weeks with Malacañang propagandists preparing their statements. The aim was not just to muffle Minority Leader Enrile’s reported bombshell, but more to overshadow the first inquiry’s conclusion that P-Noy ultimately was responsible for the massacre of the SAF-44. This time, Napeñas alone would be blamed. Even the alleged usurper of authority Purisima would be portrayed as Napeñas’ victim of inaccurate reporting.

And so it was made to look normal for the highest ranking DND-AFP officials, and their DILG counterpart Roxas, to not react to certain regular updates on the Mamasapano battles. Separate clashes began before daybreak after terrorist Marwan was taken down. Only 12 hours later, at 5:30 p.m., did it occur to them to tell P-Noy to, hey, let’s hold a command conference. It was snack time, so more like “kumain conference.”

Retired and active-duty generals keep whispering to media friends, however: “I’m ashamed of my Army.” They know that 6th Infantry Division Gen. Pangilinan and 1st Mechanized Brigade Col. del Rosario shouldn’t have wasted any minute to help the beleaguered police commandos. Fine, that upstart Napeñas had not coordinated with them, till “time-on-target.” But that was of no import then, when lives of brothers-in-arms were at stake. As then-PNP O-I-C Espina begged, and to which his PMA “mistah” (classmate) West-Min-Com Gen. Guerrero readily agreed, “Let’s find fault later, but for now please help my boys.” Guerrero is a Marine: “walang iwanan.”

As it happened, Pangilinan had to power-trip about “being the boss around here,” while del Rosario quibbled over “doctrine” of when and why to use white phosphorus first before live cannon fire. That, as 36 men of the 55th SAC were being mowed down, and 28 of the 84th Seaborne repeatedly were being ambushed by “cease-fired” Moro separatists. They even “noticed” that Napeñas and his deputy Taliño were “only in T-shirts, meaning unready to take command.” Of course they were in civvies, for operational security, knowing that the MILF monitors the entry to all PNP and AFP camps in Maguindanao.

They also claimed that 392 backup SAFs were just lying by the side of the highway when the Army tanks arrived. They were ducking for cover, because also being fired at. The tanks were of no use in the marshland the commandos wanted to enter to help extract their comrades. They just needed artillery cover, which never came till dusk.

Will the PNP still trust the AFP, and vice versa, after Mamasapano? Malacañang, and the sycophant DND-AFP-DILG protectors of P-Noy don’t care. But there’s a long history and deep philosophy behind the merging of the PC and the INP, their placement under the AFP, and consequent separation yet still entwined with the PNP. The police and military complement each other in national security.

Sen. Greg Honasan, as an ex-Army colonel, spoke before the hearing about the importance of the chain of command – in the AFP and PNP, even in the MILF or a crime syndicate, or a family. There is a parallel but informal chain, the PMA “mistah” ties. But the AFP and PNP will soon drift part, as the former’s officers continue to graduate from the PMA, while those of the latter from the PNP Academy. They will long remember the lesson of Mamasapano to not rely on each other anymore.

When that day comes, it will also be the death of the Republic.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


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