That was this paper’s headline in August quoting Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Murad Ebrahim, who was ecstatic then that the President of the Republic went on a secret trip to Tokyo just to meet him and his comrades. Two months later now, President Aquino has indeed given the MILF hope in ways beyond Murad’s wildest dreams.
He ordered the military to stand down, after the MILF massacred nineteen Army Special Forces soldiers in Basilan 18 October. And even as he tied the military’s hands while the rebels made their get-away, Mr. Aquino called for a command conference only two days later. The generals couldn’t believe what they were hearing in that meeting: instead of asking them to come up with a plan to retaliate against the massacre, he blamed the commanders, and ordered relieved Col. Alexander Macario as head of Special Operations Task Force Basilan and Lt. Col. Leo Peña as commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, the mother unit of the ambushed platoon. Mr. Aquino fired even the Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade whose fault was to articulate soldiers’ anger over the murder of their comrades.
With his statements deflecting blame away from the MILF, the President sadly has assumed the role of PR man, spinmeister for the MILF.