If Aquino couldn’t trust Roxas, why should we?

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If presidential candidate Manuel Roxas 3rd looked so morose at the Senate hearing the other day on the Mamasapano massacre – especially when Senator Juan Ponce Enrile grilled him on why he did not do anything to save the massacred police commandos – it was most probably because he has already been mourning the fatal impact of that incident on his bid to be the next Philippine President.

Enrile snarled at him and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin: “You two are in charge of the nation’s security! You on internal security, Secretary Gazmin (who sat beside Roxas) on external security, but you did nothing [to save the 44 Special Action Force troopers]?”

Indeed, Roxas by his own admission, said that he was informed of Oplan Exodus, its success in killing a wanted international terrorist, Marwan, and of the troopers’ difficulties at about 7:00 in the morning, after which, he said, he promptly informed President Aquino through an SMS message of what he just learned.

“What was Aquino’s response?” he was asked. Roxas said, “He replied: ‘thank you’.”

Didn’t Roxas find that response strange? Did he not get angry that the police, which was supposed to be under him, undertook probably the most important anti-terrorist operation ever in the country, and he knew nothing about it?

Why did he not ask Aquino about it when they were on the presidential jet for an hour-and-a-half just sitting, watching the clouds pass by on their way to Zamboanga City?

What kind of a head of our internal security was he? An international terrorist was terminated, there was an operation still ongoing in which the troopers were in some trouble, yet Roxas didn’t even take the initiative to discuss these important developments with the President?

Almost the whole day of Jan. 25, 2015 in Zamboanga, Roxas was with Aquino, getting messages that indicated that the police troopers were trapped in enemy territory, and the defense secretary – who could have given express orders to the military to save the SAF troops – was by his side.

Roxas and Gazmin at Mamasapano Senate hearing, bawled at by Enrile.
Roxas and Gazmin at Mamasapano Senate hearing, bawled at by Enrile.

Yet Roxas didn’t bother to ask – to demand – that Aquino call for an emergency command conference to determine exactly what was happening and plan how to save the SAF members who were still locked in battle.

He was exchanging text messages with his police officials, of course. But no, he did not bother to ask for a command conference. Why?

“When I got the reports of an encounter, it seemed just another encounter in the normal course of events. There was no sense of urgency,” he said. He thought it was just another encounter, in which an international terrorist is killed in a raid deep into Muslim insurgent territory?

What did the police officials need to do to emphasize to him a “sense of urgency?” Show him pictures of bloody SAF troopers on the ground?

Roxas’ excuses could have sounded logical if he were in his office in Manila, and moving from meeting to meeting. But he wasn’t. The whole day he was with the President, ranking police and military officers, and with defense secretary Gazmin, as reports on the carnage in Mamasapano trickled in.

Did he not find it strange that Aquino the other day suddenly asked him to go to Zamboanga ostensibly to check what really happened in the reported bomb attack in the city, only to be told when they got there that an international terrorist had been killed in Mamasapano near Cotabato City, an hour away by helicopter from where they were?

Roxas’ last excuse was pathetic: “I didn’t even know there was an operation going on. We were blinded, and we didn’t know we were blinded,” referring to the fact Aquino had not informed him and defense secretary Gazmin of Oplan Exodus. “The entire morning I and Voltz (Gazmin) were looking at each other, wondering what was happening,” he even dared to say.

The President didn’t trust him and Gazmin enough to tell them about Oplan Exodus.

When he found out about it early in the morning, Roxas did not even have the guts to ask Aquino what was really going on, who had the task of informing the President about the progress of the operation and why the President blindsided him on such an important operation, to demand that the Zamboanga visit be cut short so that the entire presidential party could focus on taking immediate action to save the lives of the SAF troops under him. That would have been leadership.

Men with just an iota more of integrity would have resigned right there and then, refusing to accept and dignify the President’s act of going over his head in the chain of command and demonstrating to the whole world that he didn’t trust his interior secretary. And this guy of weak command sinews and moral fiber wants to be President of this Republic?

Aquino himself couldn’t trust Roxas with Oplan Exodus, why are they, then, asking us to trust him to run the country?

The Mamasapano and “Yolanda” disasters were litmus tests for Roxas to show his leadership. He utterly failed. The Mamasapano hearing the other day provided the last nails for Roxas’ political entombment.

Plan “P”
I have been hearing rumors that given Roxas’ inability to demonstrate his leadership and his low poll ratings, Aquino and his Yellow Cult – worried that they could end up in jail this year if they lost power – are launching a Plan B, or rather Plan “P,” which involves shifting their support and resources to Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

The talk is that Roxas has been forced to rely almost entirely on the Araneta-Roxas wealth, rather than on the Liberal Party-Yellow Cult’s campaign kitty, and that the new Interior Government Secretary Senen Sarmiento had been given explicit instructions to wait for express orders from Aquino and Senator Franklin Drilon on the release of DILG funds for use in the May election campaign.

The Mamasapano hearing provided us with indications that Aquino may have, indeed, shifted his support to Llamanzares. Llamanzares appeared to be supportive of the plot to clear Aquino of any accountability for the Mamasapano massacre, and seemed to want the hearing to end as soon as possible. Aquino’s lawyer, Senate President Franklin Drilon, was on Llamanzares’ side the whole time, and had been seen whispering to her from time to time.

Although I admire very much presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte for his anti-elite worldview, the Mamasapano hearing added to my suspicion that his bark may be worse than his bite.

He has been bragging that he knows what really happened in the Mamasapano massacre because he was there, hinting that he was in the confidential briefings with the President. While he says the information he holds is confidential, he may be forced to disclose what he knows in a Senate hearing. But Enrile issued an open invitation for him to attend the hearing. He made no appearance at the Senate and we don’t hear his bark over Mamasapano any more.

The only presidential candidate that has been unscathed by this Mamasapano hearing is Vice President Jejomar Binay. Quite cleverly, and in contrast to Duterte, he has kept his mouth shut – after commiserating profusely with the SAF 44 relatives last year, and the image embedded now in the public’s mind is that of Binay saluting a huge mural of the fallen troopers.