In his address to the nation Friday evening, President Aquino said he was the father of the nation who had lost 44 sons in the person of the members of the Special Action Force – Philippine National Police killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.
He offered condolences anew to the slain men’s families as he tried to assure them that justice would be served. For the first time, he acknowledged that he was responsible for the things that happened and that he would carry this burden to the end.
In asking the questions he did about what happened in Mamasapano, however, Mr. Aquino tried to extricate himself from the responsibility he just assumed. He said that the plans were so much different from what was actually on the ground. The commander—unnamed, but it was of course General Getulio Napenas Jr.— should have known this, and had at least three opportunities to modify or abort the mission altogether. But didn’t the President know about the plan, in the first place?
We think General Napenas should prepare for difficult times ahead, especially after his revelations that he took direct orders from suspended PNP Chief Director Alan Purisima.
Purisima is the President’s dear friend, whom he defended at the height of allegations of corruption. They go a long way. In the same speech, the father of the nation extolled his friend’s loyalty to him—by keeping him safe during tumultuous times in 1987, and by keeping their friendship when doing so could jeopardize his career. President Aquino was then an opposition legislator, but perhaps it was not so much loyalty as the fact that he never carried any real gravitas as an opposition figure back then.
Given their history, all that they had been through, it was painful for him to accept the resignation of his friend, who is exiting immediately.
It need not be this way. Purisima could have resigned the moment he learned he was being accused of corruption, or even when the Office of the Ombudsman ordered him suspended two months ago. When he didn’t, the President could have stepped in and fired him. But in Aquino’s world, that’s not how it goes.
Mr. Aquino also urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to surrender the remaining terrorist Usman if he happened to be in their “territory”, help find him, or at least keep out of succeeding efforts to pursue him. There was no mention however of going after those who committed the barbarities on the SAF.
This latest address may have been less offensive than the ones that came before it. There were no convoluted references to the President’s own “sad” fate. There was direct reference to the MILF. Still, there was bravado, blame tossing, and toward the end, an attempt at a rallying cry. Only the succeeding days will show us if the President has decided to really act like a leader on this issue. Or if it’s all a front, like everything seems to be these days.