By Jonathan Dela Cruz
It is good that the Duterte administration has finally recognized the heroism of the SAF 44, the contingent of brave and patriotic policemen, who gave up their lives in pursuit of the then Asia’s number one terrorist, Zulfiki Bin Hir alias “Marwan.” In simple ceremonies last Tuesday, President Duterte posthumously awarded them the PNP’s Medalya ng Kagitingan, the highest award accorded to members of the force.
In the presence of family members of the SAF 44, Mr. Duterte in his usual fatherly way noted “…you know it comes late but better late than never.” He also vowed to go after the perpetrators of the heinous crime “no matter how long it takes.” It was a gesture that moved not only the families of the departed but a grateful nation as well.
For if truth be told, this tragedy touched the country’s conscience to the core. Why did this tragic incident come to pass? Why did we let our young (per the record, the average age of the SAF 44 was 28) die in such a terrible way? These were questions which up to now have to be answered. These were concerns which could have been partly addressed, in a way, had then President Aquino and his senior colleagues shown a modicum of empathy and, yes, honesty as they faced the families and grappled with the answers to the hundred and one questions which came after that bloody incident.
Unfortunately, Aquino and his ilk were more concerned with covering up their posteriors and evading any kind of responsibility for their actions before, during and after that fire fight in Mamasapano. They were more obsessed, one pundit noted, in saving the tottering peace talks with the MILF and the infirm and frayed Bangsamoro Basic Law which was then on the verge of being railroaded in the Lower House. Indeed, it was the cover-up which followed and which became the basic PNoy response to the tragedy which made matters even worse.
This award will now be a major step forward as we continue to heal the hurts and wounds which this incident engendered. I just hope the President proceeds with deliberate speed in giving justice to the SAF 44 as he promised, no matter how long it takes. Meantime, he can probably have somebody check whether the promises made to the families by the previous administration have been fulfilled. If not, he better order the DILG and the incoming PNP Chief to do something about this lest it become a stumbling block to full healing.
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Still on resolving lingering “questions of public importance,” as then-NYT owner Adolph Ochs was wont to say, the Supreme Court has finally ruled on the much-debated (some say abused and maligned) Department Order 41 issued by then Secretary now Senator Leila de Lima. Issued in 2011, the order was used to stop then former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband and other members of their family and immediate staff from leaving the country for her much-needed medical check up and operation, was declared unconstitutional by the HighTribunal.
Upholding the constitutionally enshrined right to travel provision, the SC said only the courts can ban a citizen from leaving the country not the Secretary of Justice.
The question that arises now is: how can those issued Hold Departure Orders and Watch List Order seek redress from the pain and suffering endured as a result of these issuances? Can they sue the then Secretary of Justice for having over stepped her bounds for damages? Can they have their records corrected and given a clean slate as well?
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Now that Facebook has given way to reason and fair play by advising that it is open to have more “fact-checkers” in the Philippines other than Rappler and Vera Files, it is time for government and those who have expressed concern over the designation of these two entities to come around discuss concerns with the International Fact Checking Network. Apparently, the network acts as the “vetter’’ of web sites which Facebook used to fact check.
In fact, if any of those who were taken aback by the haste of the designation they should probably start filling up the forms for membership with ICPN. Better still, get going and propose a universally accepted definition of (‘false/fake news”) which should be used in the fact checking harmonized with the organization’s Code of Principles. Then, to complete the loop, urge ICPN and Facebook to use the accepted standard definition. That way even the warring news sites can propagate the same and give Facebook another chance to prettify itself.