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Our national shame: Aquino got away with his Mamasapano ‘alternative truth’

IF you’re wondering where on earth US President Donald Trump’s spokespersons got the totally insane notion of “alternative facts” to counter media reports that the new President’s inauguration drew one of the smallest crowds ever for such an event, you don’t have far to look.

It was the former President Benigno S. Aquino who invented this cockeyed concept, using the more harebrained, oxymoronic “alternative truth”. In Aquino’s case, though, he used that term with regard to a vastly more serious issue, the massacre of 44 Special Action Force policemen two years ago today by Moro insurgents.

In his attempt to clear himself of complicity in the massacre, to argue that Moro Islamic Liberation Front insurgents were not involved in it, and to raise doubts on the findings both of Senate and Philippine National Police investigations, Aquino told the officials and journalists of the then slavishly pro-administration Philippine Daily Inquirer in his exclusive audience with them September 8, 2015 that there was an “alternative truth” to the debacle. The newspaper reported:

“The President said the photo of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias ‘Marwan,’ showing him dead in his hut …. ‘posed many questions and that is what we want to resolve… There are certain quarters who did point out certain questions that arose from viewing that picture. Does this support the so-called official version of what transpired? Now, if it doesn’t support [the official version], can it be explained or not? That is an ongoing process. There is no conclusion at this point’.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Sept. 9, 2015 scoop on Aquino’s “alternative truth.”

Two years after the massacre though, Aquino has never explained what his “alternative truth” was. However, his media operators spread the canard that it was the SAF, and especially its commander Getulio Napeñas, who brought the tragedy on themselves because of their errors of judgment and boo-boos. An “alternative version” was even spread that it wasn’t even the SAF that had killed Marwan but his aide who wanted to collect the $5 million reward offered by the US.

By several accounts, Aquino was paralyzed into total inaction that he failed to call for reinforcements, especially his air assets—as even President Duterte recently pointed out—that whole tragic day. He was informed that the SAF troopers had been pinned down by gunfire in the early morning of that day, yet he didn’t lift a finger in the eight hours that the battled raged.

Shocked by events
He was apparently shocked by the turn of events, as he was in Zamboanga City that day expecting that the operation, intended to capture the international terrorist Marwan, would be successful and mark a high point of his presidency. The plan was for him to helicopter to Cotabato City to congratulate the troops, and of course himself.

I tend to believe though the September 6, 2015 report by Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang, that police and army reinforcements were on the way to rescue the SAF troopers, and their commander asked Aquino for his final approval. Aquino, however, replied: “Negative. Negative. negative. Stand down.”

Why did he do this? He was convinced by his advisers on the peace talks that an escalation of the battle would torpedo the negotiations for an end to the insurgency of the MILF, which he was convinced would win him the Nobel Peace Prize. (Indeed, the prize was awarded in September 2016 to Colombia President Juan Santos who struck a peace agreement with his country’s biggest insurgent organization, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.)

It is our national shame that Aquino was not held accountable for the massacre of 44 of our best troops. It wasn’t for lack of a smoking gun to prove Aquino’s complicity, which was most likely in the possession of the telecom firm Smart Communications.

Aquino had ordered Gen. Alan Purisima to supervise the operation, even if he had been suspended by the Ombudsman as PNP chief, which itself is a crime the former President should have been made to account for. In the Senate investigation of the massacre, Purisima submitted a transcript of what he claimed was the exchange of SMS messages between him and Aquino on that fateful day, as he supervised the operation.

His first message was at 5:45 a.m., which reported that Marwan was killed, although the body was left behind. Purisima sent seven more text messages, his last at the end of the day, at 6:20 p.m.

Last message?
Aquino first replied to Purisima’s message at 7:36 a.m., not to ask how the SAF troopers were but to inquire why Marwan’s body was left behind and if the terrorist’s trainee in bomb-making, Basit Usman, was also killed – queries which show that the President was privy to the details of the operation. Aquino sent a total of only four messages, the last, according to Purisima, was at 10:16 a.m., “Basit should not get away.”

NO WORRIES Aquino, Roxas, and Gazmin in Zamboanga City, January 25, 2015, while the 44 SAF troopers were being pinned down and massacred, pretending nothing was happening.

That this was Aquino’s last message, and that he sent only four messages is impossible and illogical.

Aquino couldn’t have abruptly ended his communication with Purisima at 10:16 a.m. Aquino himself said in in his impromptu speech before the SAF on Jan 31, 2015, that “he was receiving reports the whole day” on the ongoing firefight – and Purisima was his only source of reports.

The most crucial hours of the firefight were around midday, when the SAF 55th Company commandos were one by one massacred. After 10:16 a.m., Aquino didn’t bother to SMS Purisima any longer?

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.

Purisima obviously lied, to protect his boss, when he claimed that Aquino’s last message was at 10:16 a.m. Why would he claim this? Because Aquino’s messages would have indisputably shown that he ordered his forces to stand down.

Deleted Aquino’s messages
Purisima most probably deleted Aquino’s messages after 10:16 a.m., although neither the Senate nor the PNP bothered to subpoena Purisima’s cellphone, from which it could have been determined if there were messages that were deleted that day.

But modern technology could have easily disclosed the truth. Smart Communications, the operator of the cellphones that Aquino and Purisima used, has confirmed that it stores the logs — but not the messages — of SMSs sent through its system.

These would have shown 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.

Of course, the Senate then, controlled by Aquino, didn’t ask Smart to submit its log of SMS messages between Aquino and Purisima on that tragic day.

What kind of country have we become that our leaders protected Aquino, that the souls of the 44 massacred SAF troopers continue to cry from their graves for justice to this very day?