Blind Defense

by Benjie Oliveros

Ever since telling facts surfaced, which reveal the role of the US in the Mamasapano fiasco, the Aquino government has been doing everything to keep it under wraps. When former Police Special Action Forces commander Getulio Napeñas began answering the queries of Senators regarding details of US involvement, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima interrupted him with a reminder that he was divulging matters involving foreign relations and national security.

Recently, during the continuation of the Lower House probe on the Mamasapano operations, when the Makabayan bloc began asking about the role of the US, officials from the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Aquino government and the House of Representatives hurriedly agreed that these matters be taken up in an executive session

Another tack being followed by the Aquino government in covering up the role of the US is issuing general declarations that the whole operation was planned, controlled and implemented by Philippine state security forces, the US merely provided intelligence support and that no US soldier was involved in combat operations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was quick in doing so. This was also the conclusion by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) of the Philippine National Police. They also justified the “support” provided by the US by citing the Mutual Defense Treaty and the existence of the Security Engagement Board.

However, as the investigations continue more and more telling details on the role of the US are being revealed. At first, what was declared was that the US provided intelligence support before and during the operations and assisted in the medical evacuation of injured SAF troops. Then it was revealed that there was US funding and provision of equipment specifically for Oplan Exodus. Later, it was admitted that the US trained the main forces the Seaborne and the 55th SAC, the finger supposedly belonging to Marwan was turned over to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and six American personnel were present in the tactical command post.

Worse, one of the six even ordered Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan to provide artillery cover for the beleaguered SAF troops but the general refused to be ordered around. The impact of the $5 million award money offered by the US for Marwan could also not be underestimated.

During the recent House probe hearings, Napeñas admitted that the main map, which was used as basis for the planning and implementation of the operation, was provided by the US. He also revealed that the US provided training and similar “assistance” on at least two previous operations against Marwan.

There is more to it than what has been revealed in public so far thus, the declaration of an executive session.

So now even US Ambassador Philip Goldberg had to chime in that Oplan Exodus was “totally planned and executed by Philippine authorities.”

More alarming is the recent statement of Justice Sec. De Lima. In an apparent attempt to dismiss the telling details of the US role and questions whether US troops participated in actual combat operations, she was quoted by media saying: “The bottom line is the ability of the Philippine government to determine for itself the extent of US involvement and the full exercise of its control in making decisions on the what, who, when and how of a particular operation.” Thus, the US or other foreign troops can be directly involved in combat operations for as long as the Philippine government allows it.

Either Sec. De Lima is trying to outdo other Aquino government officials in justifying the US role in the Mamasapano fiasco or is doing damage control in the event that more details about the hand of the US is revealed. In any case, her statement, even if she preceded it with a declaration that it was an “academic discussion,” has far reaching implications on Philippine sovereignty and freedom.

For example, because the junta of generals of the former South Vietnamese government (pre-liberation) approved the escalated involvement of half a million US troops, it was perfectly fine? What about the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan? Who decided on the extent of US involvement? Surely it was not the former Saddam Hussein and the Taliban governments.

What about the Israel occupation of the Gaza strip? Who has control over the actions of Israeli troops? Definitely it is not the Palestinians.

What does she mean by “full exercise of its control in making decisions”? In the case of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza Strip, who had full exercise of control in making decisions?

What about the threats and acts of the US against Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and even Iran? Who decided on these?

Sec. De Lima should understand that as Justice secretary, her “opinion” whether preceded by a declaration that it is an “academic discussion” or not represents the official position of the Aquino government and could be used later on as legal basis for its acts.

Worse, it gives the US the go signal to escalate further its intervention in the internal affairs of the country for as long as it is ‘approved’ by the Philippine government. Because of this, what Sec. De Lima opined is downright subservient yet dangerous.

As Justice secretary, as a lawyer, and as a Filipino citizen, Sec. De Lima should be more circumspect about her statements, instead of blindly defending and even emulating her boss President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. (

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