EDITORIAL - What's the big secret?

The Freeman

What is so secret about the results of the special board of marine inquiry investigation that looked into the collision of two ships in Cebu of 2Go Travel and Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. that it is not being made available to the public? The ships involved were commercial vessels on commercial voyages over commercial routes. The only plausible way that secrecy can be invoked is if national security was involved in any way in the accident. But it was not.

How could that be? The ships were not government vessels on highly classified missions. Their manifests listed neither secret agents nor new weapons under development. Not by any stretch of the imagination can national security be invoked for the veil of secrecy that the board of inquiry has shrouded its report. The only reason anyone can think of for the hush-up is that the investigators are apparently more inclined to protect certain interests other than that of the public.

And that is most unfortunate because it is clear to everybody that accident investigations are made not just to pinpoint the cause and determine accountability but also to make sure that chances for a repeat are minimized, if not eliminated. Given these compelling reasons behind the conduct of accident investigations, it is a wonder why the investigators are keeping the results secret.

It is bad enough that it took the investigators roughly one year to come up with a report, it is worse when they are not making it public. What is the big deal about making the results known only to the owners of the ships? Are the investigators trying to deliver a message to the owners? If so, what? Unless the investigators come clean with the results, the mystery shrouding the results can be open to many unsavorty interpretations.

The problem with investigation results that are kept from the public is that they give rise to the possibility of alterations, with the public remaining clueless as to what the true results really are. After all, who will know if the results magically change since only the investigators and the ship owners are in on the big secret. Things can get even more unsettling if the ship owners are not satisfied with the results only they and the investigators know.

See what a ridiculous situation all the secrecy is creating? Here we have a very high profile accident -- two very big ships owned by two of the biggest shipping companies in the country, colliding not in the high seas but right off the country's second biggest port, resulting in the deaths of several dozen passengers and the sinking of one of the vessels -- and what exactly happened is being kept under the rug?

The situation calls for the investigators to be investigated. They should be investigated because everything about their investigation invites suspicion. And suspicion is not something that goes well with investigations into accidents where tremendous loss of lives and property were involved. For anything that falls short of public expectations concerning these investigations will not do justice to those who suffered these terrible losses.

In countries with mature democracies and self-respecting societies, investigations into accidents of similar nature and magnitude always make room for regular public updates on their progress whatever that may be. Best examples are the recent incidents involving two Malaysia Airlines jets. Never, at any time, was the global public denied any information for as long as that information was available. Here, the results are in but the public is kept out.


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