SAF 44 turning in their graves over Ombudsman and Poe

It will be six months to the day tomorrow when the nation was shocked by the massacre of 44 of its most elite PNP unit, the Special Action Forces.

They must be turning in their graves over two recent developments.

The more recent one is Ombudsman Conchita Carpio -Morales’s exoneration the other day of President Aquino for any complicity in the massacre. Her investigators claimed that that “whatever participation the President in the incident does not amount prima facie [“based on a first impression”] to a criminal offense, neither was his participation analogous to any of the impeachable offenses.”

But by Aquino’s own account, it was he who oversaw the operation, and worse, appointed as his operations man his bosom friend former police chief Alan Purisima, who at that time had no authority to do so as he had been suspended over a graft investigation, and was totally out of the chain of command.

How can the Ombudsman say there is no “first impression” that Aquino was involved in the operation?

Poor Purisima: The Ombudsman is now charging him for “usurpation of official functions.” But wasn’t it Aquino who allowed him to “usurp”? Could he have “usurped” if Aquino didn’t ask him to? Could he even have entered Malacañang where the meetings were held in which he usurped the functions?

So what happened? Top photo, in March when Llamanzares put Mamasapano Massacre blame on Aquino. Lower left, the horrific killings. Right, dinner with Aquino for his endorsement.
So what happened? Top photo, in March when Llamanzares put Mamasapano Massacre blame on Aquino. Lower left, the horrific killings. Right, dinner with Aquino for his endorsement.

Did the Ombudsman subpoena Purisima’s cellphone, which contained the smoking gun of Aquino’s complicity? This is because Purisima’s transcript of his conversations with Aquino on that day had a five-hour inexplicable gap in the afternoon, which obviously indicates he didn’t want to disclose other orders from and conversations with the President.

Now we know why Aquino, as soon as he assumed office in June 2010, removed Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, bullying her with the threat of impeachment. Poor Gutierrez didn’t have the money to hire lawyers in an impeachment trial.

But the souls of the SAF 44 may be groaning louder over Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

Massacre created a star

It was in the hearings on the Mamasapano Massacre of the Senate Committee on Public Order which she headed (jointly with the committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation), that the “star was born,” as it were. She broke out of her balikbayan, top movie-censor persona to portray herself as not only an intelligent and articulate senator but also a principled one with the courage to proclaim that Aquino had to bear responsibility for the massacre.

We were all pleasantly surprised by her independence and boldness. The banner headline of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, which has recently been rooting for her as the next president, was in extra-large fonts, “The buck stops with the President”, with a one-fourth paged photo of her in a dramatic pose as if she were the personification of the Goddess of Justice.

It was clever of her of course that she monopolized the press conference when she released the report, even if it was a joint report of the Peace and Order committee she headed, the Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, and the Finance/Subcommittee A, headed by Senator Francis Escudero.

It was not her being “Panday’s” daughter (although that helped) but her stellar performance in the Senate’s televised hearings investigating the Mamasapano Massacre that catapulted her into the political firmament of potential presidents. (Which raises the question, what issue could help her maintain such a high political altitude?)

And why shouldn’t she?

After the Llamanzares’ show, it’s still “pending’. Senate website’s description of the Mamasapano investigation.
After the Llamanzares’ show, it’s still “pending’. Senate website’s description of the Mamasapano investigation.

The present Senate is the worst of all senates after Marcos’ fall, consisting mostly of Aquino lackeys, narcissists lusting for the presidency or vice-presidency at all costs, and cowards bludgeoned to silence by the threat that they would be made to join Enrile, Jinggoy, and Bong in jail if they didn’t cooperate — even if only silently — with this Yellow Regime.

But what did she do after she portrayed herself as the Goddess of Justice that would avenge the fallen SAF 44 with her explosive draft Mamasapano report, dramatically reading lengthy excerpts of it in well-planned press conference?

Nothing.

Such reports by Senate committees are supposed to be “reported out” or presented to the entire Senate, so senators who weren’t members of the committees that investigate the issue could critique it or contribute to it.

Llamanzares didn’t.

So technically, the much-ballyhooed Mamasapano Report isn’t at all a Senate report, and its status is merely: “Pending Second Reading, Ordinary Business.” That means it still has to be taken up, debated, amended, if necessary, then approved by the entire Senate in plenary. Since it is just a report of the Senate’s many committees, and not a report of the Senate itself, historians in the future may not even find Poe’s much-ballyhooed report in its archives.

An incredulous press pressured her to explain why she didn’t report it out to the Senate. She replied lamely, as if she didn’t know that it was standard procedure to do so, and that it cannot just be treated upon her whim: “The report is about facts and findings. The Ombudsman acknowledged receipt of our recommendations. I will no longer present in plenary. The BBL plenary discussion can tackle any remaining questions on Mamasapano.”

Compelling reason

There is of course one compelling reason why she wouldn’t have the Senate in plenary (as a whole) discussing it. Aquino’s complicity in the massacre would be further exposed in public, and the other senators who were not members of the investigating committees may demand further hearings.

It may even get out of control and create such public outrage for Aquino to step down, especially if it is proven, as this newspaper alleged, the he ordered the army to stand down and not rescue the trapped SAF, for the sake of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The senators for instance could have subpoenaed mobile-phone company’s records that would show how many times Aquino called Purisima on that tragic day, which would prove without the shadow of a doubt that the President supervised the debacle.

What kind of country have we become?

Forty-four of our finest troops were massacred, even stripped of their pants to humiliate them, and there are strong indications that the President refused to save them. Yet the Senate stops in finding out what really happened, what Aquino did or did not do?

And the senator partly responsible for not pursuing the investigation is running for President?

It is indeed strange that after being in the limelight in March pinpointing blame on Aquino, she hasn’t said a word about the massacre since then.

Why didn’t she pursue an issue that catapulted her to stardom as a much-admired senator, enough for opinion-poll respondents to think that somebody who had renounced her country could be President?

The answer has stared us in the face in the past weeks, as Aquino dropped hints he might not anoint his sidekick Mar Roxas as the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate and especially with the President having a six-hour dinner with Llamanzares, her Svengali Senator Escudero, and Roxas discussing scenarios for the 2016 elections.

It wasn’t just Llamanzares’ high ratings in presidential voter-preference polls that made Aquino agonize on who to choose as his anointed.

Aquino would be stupid not to have realized that what Llamanzares did in the case of the Mamasapano massacre was a clear message: “I can go against you, or I can save your skin, especially when you step down from power. Why choose Mar?”