Starweek Magazine

Moving on

SINGKIT - Notes from the editor - The Philippine Star

Two comprehensive reports on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano encounter have been released – the 128-page report (plus annexes, including the detailed report of the five-man Operational Audit Team, not released to the public) of the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry and the 129-page report of the three Senate committees that looked into the tragic encounter that saw the massacre of 44 police commandos and the deaths of 18 Muslim rebels and several civilians. Both reports have come to similar conclusions, one in essence validating the other.

Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy with the reports. The guys by the Pasig have particularly taken issue with the BOI report (I guess it’s more difficult to go against the Senate, it being a co-equal branch), saying it is speculative, and especially bristling at its conclusion that the chain of command was violated, by no less than the top of the chain. From a purely civilian point of view, I’d say the chain of command applies to subordinates, meaning they should not skip links in the chain and go above and beyond their immediate superior, but a chief or commander – and commander-in-chief – has the right to talk to any one in the chain under him; but hey, that’s just the point of view of a kibitzer.

My problem though is with a suspended official having such a big part in such a major and sensitive mission, even if he provided the “intelligence packet” for it and thus considers it his “baby.” Suspended, he should have been out of the chain – no ifs or buts. The ground commander who took his “advice” to ignore the OIC chief broke the chain of command by reporting to the suspended one.

Others say the BOI did not go far enough or deep enough, not dealing with the rebels’ “original sin” or pinpointing criminal liability. The widow of one of the slain commandos said the report was “wanting” without saying in what way, and subsequently admitted she had not read the full report. The PNP sought to distance itself from the report, for reasons I will not speculate about in print.

But, following a meeting at the Palace with two of the three BOI members at which they “talked like brothers,” all seems to be fine and hunky-dory now, whatever hurt was caused by the BOI report assuaged.

So what happens now? We move on – but how?

For starters, let’s have a PNP chief with full authority. Having a police force in limbo is not helping the peace and order situation any; there were four murders in three days last week and three active kidnap cases recorded in the Tsinoy community. I’m not saying this is a direct result of not having a permanent PNP chief, but the vacuum certainly doesn’t help. I realize there may be a legal question of having two four-starred generals in active service, but this can be solved if the one would take himself out of the picture by early retirement so that a full-fledged chief can be named, although I am told that a chief can come from even the ranks of one-star generals.

At any rate, this is an immediate and good place to start, if we are to begin to rebuild our national life after that horrific and tragic encounter in the cornfields of Maguindanao that Sunday in January.

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