Make no mistake. Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III is to blame for the appalling massacre of 44 Philippine National Police (PNP) elite Special Action Force (SAF) troops by the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The reasons are quite straightforward.
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1. President BS Aquino negotiated with terrorists.
The MILF, a terrorist organisation long known to cause horrrific grief to huge swaths of Mindanao, was given legitimacy by the Second Aquino Administration as a result of the president’s pet project, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now being deliberated in Congress.
The origins of the MILF as a militant breakaway group from what was once considered a more “moderate” Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was over disagreements with the direction being taken by the MNLF leadership back in 1977 towards renouncing its own separatist agenda in favour of a more “conciliatory” deal with Manila then, a direction which bore fruit ten years later for the MNLF…
In January 1987, the MNLF signed an agreement relinquishing its goal of independence for Muslim regions and accepting the government’s offer of autonomy. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the next largest faction, refused to accept the accord and initiated a brief offensive that ended in a truce later that month. By one estimate the Mindanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front fielded around 3,000 troops.
Consider, then, the families of tens of thousands of soldiers and police officers who died gallantly fighting the MNLF, the MILF, and the New People’s Army (NPA) over much of the country’s recent history. What would they be thinking of successive governments who rewarded violence with sovereign-sanctioned legitimacy? The MNLF was given their Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the MILF is on the verge of being rewared with a Bangsamoro “nation”, and the NPA’s bosses have all but infested Philippine Congress.
2. President BS Aquino is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
President BS Aquino had compromised overall national security in the course of negotiating with the MILF by seemingly giving standing instructions to the military to stand down from armed confrontation with the armed forces of any entity that is party to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) draft being reviewed in Congress.
While this “ceasefire” supposedly covers the MILF, such terrorist groups tend to have a less reliable chain of command and are inherently infested by rogue units. In comparison, the AFP are subject to a clear and mature chain of command and is composed of professional soldiers who are far more inclined to observe it. As such, whilst the AFP can guarantee observance of such agreements, a bandit group like the MILF cannot be expected to act as gentlemanly. As a result, the entire nation was put into peril by naively expecting a terrorist group to honour an agreement that effectively left their enemy hand-tied.
So to be fair, though the AFP have been criticised for failing to assist the 44 SAF police officers despite possessing the readiness in terms of equipment and personnel within striking distance of the massacre site, they were acting under orders. And these orders can ultimately be traced to the standing ceasefire that was an outcome of the president’s pet project, the BBL.
3. President BS Aquino is at the top of the chain of command of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The PNP is subject to the authority of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) under Secretary Mar Roxas who answers only to the president. Yet, according to Roxas, he and PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina had been left outside of the loop during the planning and actual deployment of the PNP force to Mamasapano. Roxas also admitted that he could have contributed to effecting better coordination with the AFP had he been included in the initial stages of the operation and kept informed as it transpired.
In a statement to the media, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap pointed out that President BS Aquino had “deliberately held back details about the operation in a televised address last week, including the role of suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima and United States military forces,” and continues to do so.
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No matter how much media face time President BS Aquino clocks to condole with the families of the 44 SAF troopers who were brutally killed by the MILF, it does not exonerate him from sole accountability for laying the groundwork for this horrible tragedy. You can’t neglect your kid for 20 years and expect to make up for that by buying him an XBox for Christmas.
Being Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the leader of the country’s civilian law enforcement agencies, and the self-described “god” of the Filipino people comes at a steep cost. It’s time President BS Aquino pays up by accepting that the buck stops at the Office of the President when it comes to most state affairs, in this case, to military and police affairs where he is clearly the final commander.
[Photo courtesy Showbiz Government.]
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