When former president Fidel V. Ramos was insisting that the ultimate responsibility for the Mamasapano fiasco lies with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, being the commander-in-chief, Malacañang responded by saying that Ramos should wait for the results of the investigation. The Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced this morning, February 20, that the investigation is 70 percent complete. So should the Filipino people, not only Ramos, wait for the results of the investigation to be announced?
In his first nationwide address on the Mamasapano fiasco, President Aquino denied knowledge of the details of the operation and blamed the former chief of the Special Action Forces Getulio Napeñas for not following his instructions to coordinate with all government agencies concerned, including the acting chief of the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
But when news came out later that former PNP Chief Alan Purisima was directing the operations dubbed as Oplan Exodus and that Purisima and Napeñas regularly briefed President Aquino about the developments, the President was compelled to hold another nationwide address on the very same issue. This time, President Aquino admitted that the buck stops with him but again pinned the blame on Napeñas for lack of “operational awareness” and for failing to adjust the operations accordingly. As a sweetener, he announced his acceptance of Purisima’s resignation, but only after praising him for his loyalty to the president.
Since then, more damning information have surfaced:
1. Purisima, after meeting with the president, ‘advised’ Napeñas to inform the PNP chief, the AFP and the DILG only when the military operations have begun.
2. Purisima was, in fact, directing the whole operations even after he had been suspended.
3. The US financed the operations, provided the intelligence, and some US personnel were sighted participating in the operations.
4. President Aquino was in Zamboanga on the day of the operations and that he was informed about what was happening early in the morning. Worse, he was quoted in text messages ordering not for a full-scale rescue operation but for a “best effort” operation.
Even without the results of the investigation, these already clearly show the accountability of President Aquino. He short-circuited the chain of command; he put his “friend,” who was already suspended at that time, in command of the whole operations; he, at the minimum, consented to Purisima’s “advise” not to coordinate with the acting PNP chief, the AFP and DILG until the start of the operations; he sacrificed 44 SAF personnel to kowtow to US demands; and he was at the helm of an operation that turned out to be a massive political and military blunder and which cost the lives of 44 SAF men, 18 Bangsamoro fighters and 2 civilians, displaced thousands of Moro people, and endangered the peace negotiations with the MILF.
Far-fetched, though granting for the sake of argument that President Aquino was only knowledgeable about Oplan Exodus in general, and was not privy to the actual launch of the operations, then it becomes a question of competence. Why would the President not be on top of such a sensitive operation, involving more than a hundred elite police personnel, that would endanger the peace negotiations with the MILF and the lives of so many SAF personnel and the people residing in the area. If indeed the operation was to net a high-value target, Marwan, should the President be left in the dark when it was finally launched?
If this is the case, then the characters in movies depicting US presidents in the thick of sensitive military operations are much better. At least the president, in these movies, was asked to give the go signal before the actual launch of an operation or an attack on a high value target.
“Mr. President” “It’s a go!”