That the Filipino is worth dying for is a phrase made famous by the late father of President Benigno Aquino III. We know too well—the President does not fail to remind us—that the former senator was murdered as he was returning to the Philippines from the US.
These words, too, are contained in the national anthem —“ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo” known and sung by every Filipino, palm-on-chest.
But amid the outrage over the slaying of the 44 members of the Special Action Force on January 25, and the government’s lame attempts to explain and evade responibility for it, some policemen have vented their anger and frustration at their leaders and have made qualifications for the familiar phrase.
Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Manuel Roxas II was at Camp Bagong Diwa on Sunday, a full week after the men were killed by Bangsamoro islamic Freedom Fighters in the “territory” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front while in pursuit of global terrorists.
Roxas had the unsavory task of facing the grieving, demoralized and angry policemen SAF members and answering their questions about the botched operations. Why were there no reinforcements sent? How can they be assured the probe by the Board of Inquiry would be a whitewash of what actually happened?
Senior Inspector Michael Melloria said: “ Sabi ko sa sarili ko, there is no glory in this country. This country is not worth dying for kung yung gobyerno natin, hindi kami kayang protektahan as a warrior, sir. Kasi kailangan din namin ng proteksyon ng gobyerno.”
Unfortunately for Roxas, he was not in a position to provide answers. He himself was kept in the dark despite his role as head of the DILG and chairman of the National Police Commission. He did not know about Operation Wolverine—that which sent the 44 to their deaths—until it met its tragic end. In fact, it was later revealed that the one calling the shots was the disgraced PNP chief Alan Purisima, who had been suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegations of graft and corruption, and that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and President Aquino himself were aware of what was about to happen.
All Roxas could do was cry. Whether he was crying in commisseration with the 44, or grieving because he had been so insulted and rendered irrelevant, we could not say.
We also cannot say how the secretary could muster the energy to walk meekly behind the President, or speak on his behalf, after this glaring slight. How can he show an utter lack of self-respect and still say nothing about how the suspended Purisima was allowed to run the show, just because he is supposed to be familiar with the pursuit of the terrorists?
Roxas assured the SAF that the inquiry would be conducted objectively and that it would ferret out the truth. His words however do not inspire any confidence, precisely because he has been kept out of the process from the very beginning.
The secretary merely sets a bad example. What he shows us is that ambition—he is purported to be the Liberal Party’s standard bearer for next year’s presidential election, if the President does not decide he would field a more “winnable” candidate—is worth taking in all the shabby treatment he has been getting from his boss.
Some things are worth sacrificing for. But in extraordinary circumstances, one has to draw the line. What a tragedy that the Mamasapano killings have cause our uniformed men and women to reconsider their vow, even for a second.