Recall what happened on the 7th January 2015 in Paris, France. Shots were first reported coming from the Charlie Hebdo offices on Boulevard Richard Lenoir at 10:57am. By 11:31am, French President Francois Hollande was reported to be on his way to the scene of the crime. And by 11:54 a.m. Hollande was addressing the French public saying “We fight threats and we will punish the attackers.” It took France’s leader less than an hour to be on TV talking to his people in a live broadcast.
Fast forward to today as of this writing. More than 36 hours after 64 Filipino police officers — members of the Phillippine National Police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) — were massacred by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in a “mis-encounter” in Mindanao, Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III has yet to show up before his “bosses”.
What could possibly account for this 36 hours of silence?
Many Filipinos think President BS Aquino has been busy doing what is now generally-acknowledged to be his foremost talent — writing his blame script. 36 hours is an eternity to wait for a leader to face his people after an appalling tragedy — even for a Filipino politician. But, to be fair, perhaps it is because there are many factors and moving parts that President BS Aquino needs to consider to mount a convincing whitewash of what some columnists describe as a “wrinkle” in his pet project — the implementation of the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” that will give practically full license to Mindanao’s armed Islamic militants to run the affairs of their “territory”.
The trouble with waiting too long to speak up is that it gives time for, shall we say, embarrassing information to percolate to the surface and fuel speculation. According to a Manila Standard report, PNP chief Alan Purisima who is currently suspended over corruption allegations, “planned it all”. According to an anonymous source, the SAF operation and the operatives involved “reported directly to Purisima, who ran the operations from the White House in Camp Crame, despite his suspension.” Even more revealing was the way Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas was also unaware of the operation having been “kept out of the loop”.
It seems, then, that the secret operation was ran directly by Purisima and the president himself, bypassing both Roxas and PNP Deputy Director Gerardo Espina who is currently acting as officer-in-charge of the Philippine police.
The covert nature of the operation was, according to the Manila Standard report, what made it ultimately fatal…
Asked what went wrong as the SAF troops had engaged in a fierce firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the general said it was the MILF that violated the ceasefire.
“The ceasefire was in effect. We observed it. We expected the MILF to observe that too. There was no way we could coordinate with the MILF when the terrorists we were after were in their territory,” the general said.
“We were there only to serve warrants for the arrest of Marwan and Usman. There was no intention to engage in a firefight with the MILF. We did, however, expect an exchange of gunfire with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in case they turned up because there was no standing ceasefire with them,” the general said. “We also came ready with our weapons.”
“We were caught unawares when the MILF fired upon us. And so we radioed for back-up and artillery from the Philippine Army. The Army refused to send the artillery and told us their hands were tied because of the standing ceasefire,” the general [the Times‘s anonymous source] said.
Which brings us to the conduct of the other party involved in the national delusion of Bangsamoro autonomy in Mindanao. Bobi Tiglao in his Manila Times column today makes disturbing observations surrounding information about the aftermath of the bloodbath now emerging; that…
…photos of the dead SAF troops right after the incident showed them completely unarmed, or without such battle gear, as if they were civilians. They were even stripped of their camouflage suits and US-made boots. The bodies were scattered in the cornfield, and obviously weren’t in foxholes or behind makeshift shields, which they would have been if they had died fighting.
It raises the possibility that this was a war crime in its truest most heart-wrenching sense — that the SAF troops were possibly “massacred after surrendering.”
If all these are true then the two main characters in the dream of Bangsamoro autonomy in Mindanao, the president of the Philippines and the leader of the MILF are irrevocably tainted by this tragedy. The ealier for taking unqualified control over what could turn out to be an illegal operation and the latter for exhibiting a lack of qualified control over their clearly illegal armed forces.
Illegal seems to be the common denominator here.
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