Stupidity and arrogance seem to be contagious in this Administration.
In yesterday’s hearing at Congress investigating the January 24 Mamasapano massacre, Secretary of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas came to the defense of his boss — at least he thought he did — by claiming the tragic blunder happened because Special Action Forces (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas didn’t follow President Benigno S. Aquino’s orders.
Napeñas did testify in the hearing and in the Senate that in his meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang and suspended Police Chief Alan Purisima two weeks before the tragic operation, the Chief Executive had told them to coordinate with the military.
But Napeñas said he explained at length to the President that previous attempts to get the international terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir aka “Marwan” failed because of leaks in the military that had alerted the target and enabled him to escape.
The SAF head said that the President remained silent, which he interpreted as his agreement to the operation plan’s calling for informing the military only when the SAF police had reached the target. Napeñas’ interpretation was bolstered by the fact that after he left the room and Purisima talked to the President alone, the suspended police chief and Aquino’s bosom friend, as he left that meeting, told him that it would be him (Purisima) who would coordinate with Roxas and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Catapang on “Operation Exodus.”
In yesterday’s hearing, Roxas butted into a congressman’s series of questions to Napeñas by saying: “Aquino’s order was for Napeñas to coordinate with the military. Napeñas violated his order by interpreting that silence as the President’s agreement to his proposal.” Congressman Rodolfo Biazon, once a fearless general but now has become Aquino’s puppy in Congress, thought himself brilliant yesterday by repeating the same argument.
Napeñas the scapegoat
Roxas and Biazon didn’t realize the import of their attempt, making commando leader Napeñas a scapegoat: They were in effect affirming that Aquino was in charge of the operations, to the extent that he ignored Purisima’s suspension as police chief to allow him to be his “executive officer” in the operations and to be the only officer reporting to him on the day of the massacre.
As Roxas himself testified at the Senate, the President ignored with a curt “thank you” his message early in the morning that SAF troops were being killed. Aquino didn’t even bother to meet with his top security officials—Roxas, defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang—who were with him since morning and through the whole day in Zamboanga City.
That could only mean that Aquino remained in charge of the operation the whole time the ill-fated operation was being undertaken, and through noon when the 44 commandos were massacred. This, in fact, was further established by Purisima’s testimony and affidavits that he was texting the President to report on the operations, until his last message at 6:15 p.m.
PNP acting chief Leonardo Espina yesterday seemed to realize that his previous tearful testimonies in the Senate hadn’t gotten him any closer to Aquino, since he hadn’t been appointed police chief and the President had been widely rumored to be thinking of somebody else for the post
So the pathetic acting police chief chose to become as much a boot-licker as his immediate boss and made the incredible assertion in the Congress hearing: “The chain of command in the PNP in that operation involved only Napeñas and down the rungs.”
As I said, stupidity in this Administration is quite contagious.
Espina, obviously to spare Aquino from any blame, was in effect claiming that Napeñas was a rogue general who deployed 392 elite commandos from Sta. Rosa, Laguna and elsewhere to an “insurgent-infested” Mindanao area under the jurisdiction of the AFP’s Western Command. And Napeñas did that in order to take out a terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head, and coordinated with American intelligence operatives, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation—all on his own.
Didn’t Espina believe the testimonies of both Aquino’s bosom friend Purisima and Napeñas that they met twice with Aquino, and in his official residence in Malacañang, to discuss Operation Exodus?
Aquino on top of command chain
Aquino was at the top of the chain of command of this tragic operation that had led to the massacre of 44 commandos. He violated it, though, by taking in as his deputy an official suspended by the Ombudsman for corruption, Purisima. That is what the Senate and the very courageous PNP Board of Inquiry have both concluded. Aquino even abetted Purisima’s crime, which, according to the Senate report, was usurpation of authority punishable under the Penal Code.
Living up to its brown-nosed image, though, the Congressional hearings yesterday and today will try its best—because of the huge pork-barrel funds (renamed Bottom-Up Budgeting) that the most servile Speaker ever, Feliciano Belmonte, has dangled over them—to white-wash the massacre and portray this President as a brilliant military strategist, whose orders just weren’t followed by the SAF head.
That, however, won’t work. Assume he, indeed, had a brilliant military strategy. But he did realize in the morning that his orders were not followed strictly, or that he was misinterpreted.
A more mentally balanced and experienced commander-in-chief, after the reports came in that morning that the operation wasn’t going as smoothly as planned, would have dropped everything and called his top security officials—Gazmin, Roxas, Catapang and Espina who were ironically with him in Zamboanga—to an emergency meeting to respond to the crisis and use all the forces and power centers of the Republic.
Aquino didn’t do anything until around 6:00 p.m., which was only when he called his security officials to a meeting in Zamboanga City, long after the 44 commandos were massacred. Or perhaps he did something: order his troops to stand down, so his peace talks with the MILF wouldn’t be jeopardized.
Did he panic and procrastinate in making a decision, as somebody would if like him, that person in his entire life never had a position of leadership, other than running his family’s security agency with a single client, Hacienda Luisita?
Was he too arrogant and egoistic that he wouldn’t admit that the operation only he and Purisima planned was failing, that he wouldn’t even ask Roxas and Gazmin to help him out of the quagmire he found himself in?
Or did Aquino choose to just forget an unpleasant event unfolding in Mamasapano so that he just went ahead with his planned trip around Zamboanga City as though nothing was happening, as an extremely spoiled brat or somebody with Asperger’s syndrome would?
We will never know. The deaths of 44 commandos will never be vindicated.