IT was certainly not one of Senate President Franklin Drilon’s finer moments.
Elated at welcoming Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach to the Senate Monday, an effusive Drilon told the visiting beauty queen that more people were interested in her than in the Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels one year ago.
“I tell you, your visit here has generated more interest than the Mamasapano hearing,” Drilon told Wurtzbach during a ceremony to honor her winning the Miss Universe crown.
“It is obvious, I have never seen a committee hearing room so full of people,” Drilon added.
Was the senator merely starstruck? Or did he let loose a Freudian slip that revealed the administration’s hope that the Miss Universe festivities on Jan. 25 would somehow distract the public from the solemn commemoration of the Mamasapano massacre, and the disturbing allegations that President Aquino had told the Army to stand down while the police commandos were calling for help and being slaughtered?
In either case, Drilon’s remarks epitomize the administration’s callous attitude towards its own officers of the law throughout the tragic affair, from the time Mr. Aquino sent them into harm’s way—without competent leadership at the top or adequate military support, to one year later, when the President blamed officials of the Philippine National Police for the loss of 44 good men.
Contrary to the Palace claim that it has been transparent about its role in the Mamasapano operation, too many questions remain unanswered, and too many of the guilty remain unpunished.
The 90 Muslim gunmen who ambushed and killed the SAF 44 have not been charged in court one year after the incident. Worse, the President himself has not answered for his actions.
Without question, the President put the lives of the SAF commandos at high risk—and violated the law—when he appointed his friend and suspended police chief Alan Purisima to lead the covert operation.
In what seems like a case of criminal neglect, President Aquino also allowed Purisima to keep the Armed Forces in the dark until the last minute, making it difficult for troops on the ground to mobilize in aid of the police commandos.
But more than this, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the President was on top of the entire operation, and was monitoring it from Zamboanga City that day with his top security officers.
The Palace explanation that Mr. Aquino was in Zamboanga to check on a bomb attack there two days earlier was simply incredible—and the days of official silence immediately following the slaughter in Mamasapano suggest he and his cohorts were getting their stories straight before facing a shocked and angry public.
Since then, the President has done nothing but insult the memory of the SAF 44, starting with his failure to attend arrival ceremonies for their remains at Villamor Air Base. He later spoke with the families of the slain commandos, but managed to scold their widows when they pushed him to seek justice for their husbands.
Ironically, the President this week vowed to pursue that justice, saying he himself was growing impatient. If this were true, he could achieve this goal very quickly—by offering himself up for arrest for his crimes against the nation and the SAF 44.