Inescapable culpability

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - February 2, 2016 - 9:00am

It is not everyday that the president of a country gets involved in a police operation, not even if it is to go after high value targets like terrorists. An exception may be made of US President Barrack Obama when US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. One, the operation was a US government operation. Two, the operation involved going deep into another country. Three, the target was none other than you-know-who.

When Noynoy Aquino involved himself in the Mamasapano operation to get two wanted international terrorists, it underscored the great importance he gave the mission. So important, in fact, was the project to Noynoy that to ensure secrecy he left out the acting police chief and the interior secretary. That left only him, his trusted friend Alan Purisima, who was serving an administrative suspension at the time, and mission commander Getulio Napenas and his intelligence officer.

The mission was deep in MILF country where the terrorists were being coddled by the rebels, with whom Noynoy was talking peace laced with promises of sovereign land, autonomy, and start-up capital. It was a dangerous mission that necessitated sending a force of roughly 300 men. Nevertheless, a successful mission guaranteed immeasurable political dividends he can squander to ride out the precarious remainder of his term.

Failure was not an option. The lives of hundreds of his men were at stake. Exposure of his hand would be politically costly on at least three fronts - his dealing with Purisima was in violation of the chain of command as well as an Ombudsman order; the covert participation of American intelligence could not have happened without his knowledge and approval; the duplicity of the MILF, as well as his own, will be exposed, sparking outrage so bad it can scuttle his legacy of peace.

But Noynoy is not being called names for nothing. All things considered, the bull-headed Noynoy gave the mission a go. This is why he had to be in Zamboanga, on a day that also just happened to be his mother Cory's birthday. If things went well, he was just right next door. If they didn't, his officially announced reason for being in Zamboanga will provide the excellent cover why he was there.

Given the depth of his involvement in the operation, the great importance with which he regarded it, the elaborate preparations put in place to deal with the success or failure of the mission - it insults everyone's intelligence and taxes their credulity to be told, repeatedly, that Noynoy was too busy with other matters in Zamboanga to check on the mission's progress, that he was being fed the wrong information and was thus unaware of what was really happening until it was too late.

The president of the land, who was on top of the situation from the very beginning, who had to fly all the way to far Zamboanga on the birthday of his mother, not bothering to check on developments? Was being given wrong information? Was unaware of what was happening until late in the afternoon? What kind of farce are we witnessing?

If the only information Noynoy got the whole day was of one terrorist killed along with a lone SAF casualty, then why did he not promptly announce the mission a success? That would have been the natural thing to do. Clearly this yarn, spun by a political butterfly who is now one of Noynoy's staunchest defenders, was meant to quell mounting suspicions Noynoy ordered reinforcements to stand down in a vain attempt to save the MILF peace deal, never mind if it meant 44 SAF troops had to die.

When the dreadful news finally exploded on everyone's faces, it took Noynoy several days before coming out to say even anything. If his conscience had been clear, there would have been nothing to hold him back from seizing the reins of the grieving nation's leadership and face the tragedy and its consequences squarely. But the burden upon him is heavy, and heavier still with guilt. That is why he could not even show up to receive the caskets of his fallen men.

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