It was an appeasement gesture more than anything else when President Benigno Aquino III awarded medals for valor and distinguished service to the Fallen 44 of the Philippine National Police–Special Action Force. The medals were awarded posthumously to mark the massacre in Mamasapano, Maguindanao exactly a year ago. The policemen, however, need not have died if Aquino didn’t sacrifice them at the altar of his ambition. But because Aquino did not want to imperil the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law he deemed his legacy, the beleaguered commandos were left to be slaughtered by a combined force of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
But why were the medals given only now? Why not when the remains of the commandos arrived at Villamor Air Base which Aquino skipped to go to the inauguration of the Mitsubishi car plant in Sta, Rosa, Laguna? Why not even a month later after the slain commandos were buried in their respective hometowns?
Is it because the Senate committee on public order will reopen today its inquiry on what really happened in Mamasapano? Clearly, Malacañang timed the awarding of medals to soften the damning evidence to be presented by Minority Leader Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and retired police superintendent Diosdado Valeroso who claims to have audio tapes of a cover-up on the President’s stand down order not to provide air and artillery support to the surrounded PNP troopers.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, an Aquino ally, was quick to remind the tapes Valeroso plans to submit to the Senate is inadmissible as evidence and that anyone in possession of it was liable under the anti-wiretapping law. But Drilon said it’s up to Senator Grace Poe’s public order committee whether to play the tapes or not during the Senate hearing.
We hope Drilon’s reminder on the law does not scare Valeroso from submitting the tapes. Illegal or not, the tapes should be played in the interest of the public and the families of the policemen who want to know the truth about the ill-fated police mission. If Valeroso passes on the tapes to the senators who are all covered by parliamentary immunity, what’s the problem?
PNP chief Ricardo Marquez denied that the relatives of the SAF 44 were forced to attend the awarding ceremonies. However, the polite applause was noticeable coming from the relatives after Aquino’s speech at the award ceremonies at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. Clearly, they’d rather have their loved ones alive and with them than receive posthumous medals. Nevertheless, those who attended accepted the medals as grim reminder of the heroism and sacrifice of their, husbands, fathers and brothers. Some shunned the Camp Crame ceremonies while others held separate rituals in Benguet. Fourteen of the slain 44 SAF men are from the Cordillera region.
Aquino again promised them justice—but how, when he’s nearing the end of his term? How can he when the killers are embedded with the MILF that he wants to strike a deal with? With the Aquino presidency winding down in five months and the time left for Congress to pass the BBL even less, it doesn’t look like PNoy’s dream to leave this legacy will happen during his term.
A lawyer pointed out that if President Aquino’s criminal negligence cannot be proven, the victims’ widows and parents have another legal recourse—sue Aquino for civil damages and demand payment from Noynoy who has shares of stocks in the family-owned Hacienda Luisita estate.
Will today’s Senate inquiry unravel the inconvenient truth, or will stonewalling succeed again? It doesn’t matter if some of the senators are presidential or vice presidential candidates. The line of questioning by senator-candidates Poe, Defensor-Santiago, Marcos, Honasan, Cayetano and Trillanes will define who they are. But it’s non-candidate Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who’s on his last term and who’s looking at retirement whose questions will be sharp and telling. The minority leader initiated the reopening of the Senate inquiry at the request of the Mamasapano survivors and victims’ relatives.
Midnight madness sale?
The government has approved the sale of Intercontinental Broadcasting Company-Channel 13. The property will be placed on the auction block for a starting bid of Pl.98 billion. Presiding over the privatization ceremonies of IBC yesterday were President Aquino and Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya who’s known for awarding the questionable service maintenance contract of the Metro Rail Transit. IBC-13 is a company in distress under the stewardship of the Government Owned and Controlled Corporations. It is reportedly losing more than P43 million a year but the actual market value of the land the property is standing on still has to be determined.
Proceeds of the sale will reportedly be spent to upgrade the government-run People’s TV 4 which the Aquino administration uses for its official news and information dissemination. Then again, why only now when the Aquino administration is exiting in five months? How nice naman to leave something for the next administration’s communications tool when it’s Aquino and Abaya who need to communicate and defend their official acts.
Let’s hope this is not a midnight madness sale as pabaon for certain departing officials.