Forty-four PNP-SAF commandos were killed in Mamasapano but the story refuses to die. It will continue to haunt President Benigno Aquino III long after he leaves office. The inquiry into the incident is far from over, according to Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile who said “God willing, I will pursue the search for the truth and justice.” The veteran lawmaker will be 92 on Feb. 14.
Enrile gave his post-Senate hearing views last Saturday at the 365 Club breakfast group at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Makati. Reacting to reports he was stonewalled from the truth because Palace allies shielded the President, Enrile said he felt he had presented enough evidence to prove PNoy’s active involvement in the planning of Oplan Exodus, the ill-fated police operation in rebel-infested Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Someone compared the successful US commando operation inside Pakistan to get international terrorist Osama bin Laden with the poorly planned Mamasapano mission inside MILF territory to capture Malaysian bomb-maker Marwan. In the Bin Laden case, President Barack Obama monitored the entire secret operation and made sure no one among the raiders was left behind. Helicopters flew in the US commandos under cover of darkness and then plucked the raiders to safety after killing the Al Qaeda leader. There were no helicopters in the exit plan of Aquino who was waiting in nearby Zamboanga for the delivery of Marwan’s head.
What about the stand-down order from the President which Aquino allies swore never happened? Enrile said the whole cover-up was a charade, stage-managed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras. Although present at the Senate, the two did not testify but were seen talking to some of the military officials during breaks in the seven-hour hearing.
Senator Grace Poe, the Senate committee chair on public order, tried to cut short Enrile’s presentation and questioning of witnesses but for Senator Bongbong Marcos who insisted his “sister” allow JPE to continue even as AFP top brass and ex-PNP-SAF commander Gen. Getulio Napeñas blamed each other for the fatal foul-up at Mamasapano. At the end of the hearing, Palace allies and AFP officials made it appear Napenas was solely responsible for not coordinating the police operation with the military.
Enrile assured Napeñas he was willing to be his legal counsel and he hoped those who “perjured” themselves will also appear as lawyers for the President in the case he will bring against Aquino after he loses his immunity on June 30, 2016.
“Grace Poe is Aquino’s Manchurian candidate,” said Enrile in a reference to the movie of the same title. The film revolves around a conspiracy by sinister forces to have their man win the White House. Such a person is sometimes referred to as a “Trojan horse” or the gift the Greeks left behind to get inside the heavily fortified walls of ancient Troy.
There is a growing suspicion about Poe being Aquino’s “secret” candidate aside from Mar Roxas, the ruling Liberal Party’s official standard bearer. She hasn’t directly attacked Aquino although she has criticized Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for the Metro Rail Transit mess. The President, however, has refused to fire Abaya from the Cabinet despite Poe and the public’s clamor.
Enrile also asked why Poe’s initial committee report on the Mamasapano incident was not made public although she said Aquino was “ultimately responsible” for the botched police operation.
For sure, the Poe-Escudero tandem will deny Poe is PNoy’s Plan B because Roxas is lagging in the poll surveys. Malacañang and the Liberal Party are also expected to decry this claim as pure canard and intrigue meant to advance the agenda of certain presidential rivals.
But why are Poe and Escudero soft on Aquino? Voters have yet to hear the two self-professed “independent” candidates say anything really critical of Aquino.
Lest this corner is accused of being partisan, let me say I won’t waste my vote on any of the presidential candidates. The real contest is in the vice presidential race, where voters have more and better choices.
Three people in the field of sports, journalism and economics passed away last week.
Basketball legend Carlos Loyzaga died at the age of 83 in Australia where he had settled. Known as the “Big Difference” when he led the Philippine team to a third place finish in the 1956 Rio de Janeiro FIBA world basketball championship, Caloy also starred for the San Beda College Red Lions and the Yco Painters. He also coached the Philippine team that won the Asian Basketball Championship (ABC) in Seoul in 1967, beating host and arch rival South Korea.
Cayetano Paderanga Jr. was the former head of the National Economic and Development Authority under President Noynoy Aquino and also his mother, the late President Cory Aquino. He taught economics at the Ateneo and the University of the Philippines. He resigned as Neda director from the present Aquino Cabinet because of lingering illness. He was 67.
Cipriano Spurling Roxas was the former editor-in-chief of Manila Standard. His mother, the late Marguerite Spurling, was an American from Los Angeles, California. “Zip,” as Roxas was known to friends and colleagues in media served as press officer at the Philippine Consulate in Toronto, Canada, Philippine News Agency correspondent in Los Angeles and later in Washington DC during the Marcos years. He was 76. Rest in peace, Zip.