It’s ridiculous. I refer to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’ indictment of former President Benigno Aquino III for usurpation of authority and graft in connection with the Mamasapano Massacre, where 44 members of the Special Action Force died.
It is laughable—but I am not laughing.
The issue just brings to fore the many issues for which the former President should be held accountable.
Why usurpation of authority when Aquino was president at the time? He was the highest authority for “Oplan Exodus,” during which Malaysian terrorist Marwan was supposed to be arrested. Sure, Marwan was killed, but at what cost?
Let’s rewind a bit.
First, former President Aquino held a command conference at Malacañang where he directed then-Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to hatch a plan with former Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas and some others. But Purisima was suspended at that time for an anomaly in the distribution of firearm licenses.
In other words, Purisima had no business getting involved in any police operation. The top cop, BS Aquino, should have been well aware of this.
Then secretary of Interior and Local Government, Mar Roxas, was not even consulted even as the PNP was supposed to be under the DILG.
When the operation was launched, on the same day BS Aquino made up the excuse of going to Zamboanga City supposedly to oversee the damages wrought by the terrorists’ bomb. Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other members of the Cabinet went with PNoy.
Records show that while the presidential helicopter was in Zamboanga City, members of the Presidential Security Group were at the Cotabato City airport. Why? Because there were plans for BS Aquino to immediately fly to Cotabato upon the arrest or death of the terrorist in Mamasapano.
Along with the prospects of Oplan Exodus to be successful, there were also plans to nominate BS Aquino for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But the plan, as we know now, did not succeed. It failed to consider that fact that after the killing of Marwan, a combined force of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other Moro private groups swooped down on the SAF.
Although Aquino was informed about this he neither responded nor acted. He reportedly kept everything to himself and members of the Cabinet were unaware of what had happened.
When the SAF was being massacred, there were appeals for the assistance of the Army battalion that was not too far away. No assistance came because Teresita Deles, then peace adviser, supposedly told Aquino that the Army should stand down. Military assistance to the SAF would jeopardize the peace process with the MILF.
The army itself claimed that it would be impossible to use the artillery to help the SAF because it would hit them instead. That was no excuse, of course—military tacticians should know the terrain. Helicopters and drones could have helped, but any assistance would have been too late.
The Ombudsman’s indictment of Aquino was clearly an attempt to have the cases dismissed outright. First, usurpation of authority and graft were bailable and meant to be dismissed. Morales merely wanted to show her critics that she was not going soft on Aquino, who appointed her in the first place.
With the cases against BS Aquino raffled off to the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan, headed by another appointee of his, then it’s all “lutong Macau.”
For more than two years now, the widows and orphans of the Fallen 44 have been crying out for justice. The widows want nothing less than reckless imprudence resulting in homicide to be filed against the former president. Imagine —when the remains of the SAF men arrived in Manila, he was not even there because he chose to go to the inauguration of a car plant.
He virtually fed the SAF men to the wolves!
Records of the Senate investigation led by Senator Grace Poe show that Aquino was responsible, accountable and culpable for what happened. So why is the Ombudsman insulting our intelligence now?
I have not always agreed with what President Rodrigo Duterte has said and done since he assumed office. He said he would achieve peace and order in three to six months, but he is only realizing now how deep rooted the drug problem is.
The drug problem is not one of peace and order but of poverty and health. I always say the bigger problem is rehabilitating the users. For as long as there is demand for illegal drugs, there will always be supply.
The corruption problem is one that cannot be completely eradicated either, so long as humans have feet of clay. President Duterte can only minimize corruption but not stop it.
But when it comes to foreign interference on domestic affairs, I agree with him.
Reports that the Apo View Hotel in Davao City is being refurbished and repaired to welcome tourists is good news to me and my wife. We spent our honeymoon there when we got married 63 years ago.