Nifty caveats and poor fallguys
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - March 16, 2015 - 12:00am

At the post office, when mail gets damaged in any manner and by whatever cause, it gets stamped with the words "received in this condition." There then follows a series of small boxes to be checked, apparently by postal staff, to indicate the nature of the damage. If there is a tear on the envelope, for instance, the box with the word "torn" is then indicated with a check.

The caveat "received in this condition" is very sweeping, however, and may not exactly reflect the truth. It is perfectly possible that an envelope is torn or partly opened on purpose, for reasons the one who tore the envelope only knows. Now, I am not accusing anyone at the post office of anything. But you can draw your own conclusions from there. After all, incidences of slightly torn or partially opened mail have happened, quite frequently in fact, and especially to mail from abroad.

I am mentioning this here is because the words "received in this condition" can be used as an excuse for self-exoneration. It can be used as an alibi to cover up something. For example, if I am seized with a sudden urge to find out what an envelope may contain, I can always partially open one to satisfy my curiosity and then cover up what I have done by stamping it with the caveat "received in this condition" and check the box with the words "partly opened."

The reason I brought this up is because of the parallelism I have noted between the postal caveat and the excuse the military proposed in not coming promptly to the aid and rescue of beleaguered police SAF commandos in Mamasapano last January 25, resulting in the deaths of 44 of them in the hands of the MILF and its allies the BIFF.

The SAF commandos were on a secret mission to get two wanted terrorists. The military, under fire for not coming promptly to the aid and rescue of the SAF, had its own version of the post office alibi -- the police did not coordinate with the military. In partially opened mail, the words "received in this condition" wipes out any trace of possible tampering. In Mamasapano, the words "did not coordinate" absolves everyone of possible criminal abandonment.

We can turn the other cheek on tampering because it does not involve human lives. But in combat, abandonment of fellow men in uniform is criminal and cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. The SAF commandos may be guilty of failing to coordinate with the military, but by God, how can the military just turn the other cheek to the slaughter of their fellow men in uniform simply because they failed to coordinate?

Just as I do not buy the postal caveat of "received in this condition," so too do I not buy the military's excuse that the SAF failed to coordinate with them. The military follows a highly disciplined and regimented way of life. It is a stickler for regulations. It strictly adheres to the chain of command. It places a high value on valor and honor. I therefore cannot accept the military would allow "failure to coordinate" stand in the way of aiding and rescuing fellow men in uniform.

I think there is a more compelling reason for the military to hold back from aiding and rescuing the beleaguered SAF units in Mamasapano than just failure of coordination. I do not think the military can just sit idly by and run the words "failure to coordinate" over and over in its mind while it hears the frantic calls for help from the SAF amid the din of heavy gunfire from the enemy. No soldier worth his salt can stand down in such a situation.

Unless of course there is a direct order from a higher authority to stand down. And that has become the nagging suspicion of many. The thing about "failure to coordinate" is a lot of bull. Some of the military and police officers involved are "mistahs" from the PMA who follow strict codes of loyalty. The only thing that can possibly surpass loyalty is obedience, in the form of a direct order from a higher authority. The chain of command must always remain inviolate.

So, was there an actual command to stand down that filtered down the chain. I do not think an order in those exact words may have been given. But there are many ways of saying what you mean, in words that are not incriminating. At any rate, I now believe, as do many of our countrymen, that a higher authority preferred to save the supposed peace process with the MILF than the lives of the SAF commandos.

In the final analysis apparently arrived at up the chain of command, saving the peace process has more strategic value than the tactical loss of a few lives. Actually, the analysis is correct on its face value. The problem only surfaces once it is being considered that the peace being sought is with a party that cannot be trusted, a party that has been shrewdly playing its clueless partner all along, aided in no small measure by negotiators working for the other side.

There is also a less obvious reason why the military is being forced to play the "failure to coordinate" card. Coordination was never part of the plan to set the SAF loose on the two terrorists. "Do not coordinate" was a direct order from the chain of command because laws were being broken in hatching the plan. If the plan succeeded, the broken laws can be glossed over. If it failed, the chief cannot be incriminated. The blame must not go back up the chain. Fallguys must be found.

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