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Smart Communications has smoking gun on Aquino’s stand-down order

The Indonesian-Japanese venture Smart Communications has proof, or at least the smoking gun, for President Benigno S. Aquino’s “stand-down order” to the military, telling them not to save the police commandos trapped in Mamasapano.

This is contained in the company’s log of SMS messages between Aquino and his bosom buddy, the resigned Police Chief Alan Purisima. The President in effect illegally designated Purisima—despite his being suspended—as his executive officer for the police elite unit Special Action Forces’ Oplan Exodus, the plan to terminate international terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir aka “Marwan” and two of his collaborators.

As part of his sworn testimony to the Senate hearing last month, Purisima submitted a transcript of what he claimed was the exchange of SMS messages between him and Aquino on that fateful day.

His first message was at 5:45 a.m., which in a self-congratulatory tone reported that Marwan was killed, the mission successful, although the body was left behind. Purisima sent seven more text messages, his last at 6:20 p.m.

Aquino replied when he woke up, at 7:36 a.m., not to ask how the SAF troopers were but only as follows: “Why was it (Marwan’s body) left behind? The other two targets?” (Aquino’s second question reflected his intimate knowledge of the operation as he knew more than what the public had been told that there were only two targets, Marwan and his associate Basit Usman. Only when this transcript of SMS messages was submitted by Purisima and inquiries made why Aquino referred to two targets did the government disclose there was a third target, who got away – another Malaysian bomb expert, Amin Baco.)

But according to Purisima’s testimony, Aquino’s last message was at 10:16 a.m.

This is impossible. Aquino couldn’t have abruptly ended his communication with Purisima at 10:16 a.m. This even contradicts Aquino’s statement in his impromptu speech before the SAF on Jan 31 that “he was receiving reports the whole day” on the ongoing firefight.

Deleted? Facsimile of Purisima’s affidavit claiming SMS exchanges between him and Aquino on Jan 25.
Deleted? Facsimile of Purisima’s affidavit claiming SMS exchanges between him and Aquino on Jan 25.

The most crucial hours of the firefight were around midday, when the SAF 55th company commandos – ironically the “blocking force” – were being overrun and massacred.

That was the life-or-death period when Purisima would have told Aquino how desperate the situation of the SAF troopers was, and when Aquino, the commander-in-chief, should have issued his crucial orders to save them. Testimonies at the Senate and, more recently, at the House of Representatives yesterday bolster this newspaper’s Feb 5 report that President Aquino ordered his troops to “stand down” for the sake of his peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose forces have attacked and massacred the SAF troopers.

As SAF officers’ testimonies revealed yesterday, how could veteran army generals invoke the “peace talks” as their reason for withholding artillery fire they knew could save the lives of their comrades-in-arms, if they were not just quoting the President’s orders?

Based on all the testimonies of Aquino’s officials in the Senate, only Purisima was reporting to him, except for a single message the interior and local government secretary sent to him early morning, to which the President replied with an obviously dismissive “Thank you.” Or perhaps Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang was actually briefing him the whole day, which means the general was lying, committing perjury in his testimonies at the Senate as he stated he didn’t have cellphone communications with the President that day.

Purisima is obviously taking the Senate and us for fools by testifying that Aquino’s last message was at 10:16 a.m. He is covering up for his bosom friend.

Why did he delete Aquino’s messages after that early hour of the daylong crisis?

Because Aquino’s messages would have indisputably shown that he ordered his forces to stand down, as army actions to save the SAF troops could have endangered his peace talks. The messages would most probably show that he told Purisima that he had spoken with peace adviser Teresita Deles, who assured him that the MILF had issued a ceasefire order to its troops.

From Aquino’s behavior, I would bet he cursed Purisima again and again for the botched operation.

This reminds us of the infamous 18-minute gap in the 79-minute conversation between US President Nixon and his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, which had obviously been deleted deliberately as it would have shown his complicity in the Watergate break-in cover-up. (At least Nixon agreed to submit the tapes to Congress. In our case, our Congress has been too timid to ask Aquino to surrender his cellphone.)

But modern technology could come to our rescue so the truth would come out, even if Aquino and Purisima refuse to submit their cellphones for investigation.

Smart Communications, operator of the cellphones Aquino and Purisima used, has confirmed that it stores the logs — but not the messages — of SMS sent through its system.

These would show whether or not there were other SMS messages exchanged between the cellphones of Aquino and Purisima, or between the President and his other officials that day. It would be a smoking gun if the logs showed there were other SMS exchanges between the two that Purisima did not include in his affidavit.

Why hasn’t Smart complied with the Senate’s request for it to submit these logs?

I do hope Smart Communications would be patriotic enough to submit to Congress the SMS records of Aquino and Purisima — and even of Gen. Gregorio Catapang and his field commanders — so the truth can be established, which is important for strengthening our rule of law.

What am I talking about asking Smart to be patriotic?

It is a foreign-owned firm. A 100-percent subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Smart, therefore, is 46 percent owned by foreign firms, with the next biggest single stockholding bloc of only 8 percent being owned by Filipino John Gokongwei. About 26 percent is owned by the First Pacific Co. Ltd of Hong Kong, of which, 45 percent is held by Indonesian Anthoni Salim, son of former Indonesian strongman Suharto’s biggest crony, the late Sudono. The other 20 percent is held by the Japanese giant NTT, which is in charge of the firm’s technology. (Its chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan, has 0.11 percent)

Foreigners control a strategic, near-monopoly communications firm that provides crucial telecom services for the battles fought by our military. Foreigners now hold information that would determine indisputably whether this President, deliberately or not, allowed 44 of our elite troopers to be massacred?

What a pathetic country we’ve become.