Kris Aquino’s text message to Duterte proves patronage politics is alive in the Philippines

According to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, former television host and Presidential sister Kris Aquino sent him a text message pleading with him not to send her brother former President BS Aquino to jail. It seems she was compelled to contact Duterte on learning that the President is hell bent on getting to the bottom of who was accountable for the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on the 25th of January 2015 that resulted in the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) officers of the Philippine National Police by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). This move by Ms. Aquino is total disregard for the rule of law. It’s as if it is up to Duterte to keep BS Aquino out of jail for whatever crime he is found to have committed during his term.

For Ms Aquino’s information, if there is merit in any case filed against BS Aquino, it will be up to the courts to decide on the prosecution’s arguments. Duterte does not have control over the justice system. That is a separate branch of government. In fact, BS Aquino should be prosecuted not just for the Mamasapano clash, he should also be prosecuted for breaking the law around the misuse of public funds through scams such as the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program and Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Ms. Aquino thinks she can charm Duterte and stop the prosecution of her brother by going directly to the President. This is a classic example of patronage politics that is keeping the Philippines from moving forward. The reason why Filipino politicians do not bother doing their jobs properly or get away with keeping their jobs even when they are incompetent and involved in criminal activities is because they can rely on their allies in government or use their so-called “celebrity status” to influence those in power.

Ms. Aquino should stay out of politics, stop intervening and let the courts decide if her brother deserves to go to jail for allegedly abandoning his men in enemy territory. We recall that weeks after the former President came under fire for the tragedy, he still failed to shed light on why the SAF did not get reinforcements or help from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while they were under attack. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, here is what I wrote about the incident

 After reading various reports from mainstream media, two possible theories emerged around why there was a “lack of coordination” between the SAF and AFP. One, the head of “Operation Wolverine” intentionally did not coordinate. Since former PNP Chief Alan Purisima, who was suspended at that time, didn’t want a lot of people to know that he was the one leading the operation. BS Aquino has not admitted categorically that he gave Purisima the go signal to proceed with the operation even while suspended but Purisima’s resignation says a lot. Even without saying “yes, Purisima was involved”, his resignation was good strategy applied by the administration to let the pressure off BS Aquino by appeasing an enraged public.

The other theory is, BS Aquino decided to avoid involving the military. That is why even when the SAF troopers were already calling for help because the militants were slaughtering them, the military couldn’t go to their aid. The reason for this was obvious during BS Aquino’s initial speech three days after the tragic event. At that time, he kept emphasizing the need to push through with the passing of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. He spoke about it more than the deaths of the 44 SAF troopers. Obviously, the President didn’t want to jeopardize it and the participation of the military in the said operation would have. He was said to have ordered the military to “stand down” instead of “go in” and help the SAF:

It was not clear from our source who radioed the Drone command center and addressed words to his superiors, saying, “Sir, papasok na kami [Sir, we will now go in].” To which the President allegedly responded, “Negative, negative. Stand down.”

Aquino was probably afraid that sending in reinforcements would violate the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between his peace negotiators and those of the MILF. He must have also been apprehensive that if the comprehensive agreement were breached, a full-blown war could ensue and doom the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in Congress.

So if that were the case, BS Aquino did abandon the troopers. What’s even mind-boggling is how he is still reluctant to condemn the atrocities committed by the members of the rebel forces. Even with the knowledge that the people he is negotiating with mutilated some of the bodies of the SAF troopers, BS Aquino still wasn’t moved enough to scrap the deal. He wasn’t even angry about the way their bodies were desecrated. In fact, BS Aquino could still afford to smile during the necrological service. That’s not something someone with a rational mind would do. That’s not someone who is fit to lead the nation.

Ms. Aquino should be helping in finding out the truth about what happened. Lives were lost due to her brother’s narcissism and self-indulgence at that time. If BS Aquino is not guilty, they should not be afraid of the truth. They should actually welcome the investigation to clear his name or face the consequences of his inaction that resulted in deaths.

We can only hope that Duterte will not give in to Ms. Aquino’s pleas. Having said that, he seems to have softened after her text. He also announced that he will not be pushing through with his plans to create a commission that would investigate the Mamasapano clash and will only rely on the Office of the Ombudsman to continue their “pending” investigation on the matter. That is a disappointing development. We all know that the “investigation” would proceed in a glacial pace at best, especially since the current ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is allegedly allied with the Aquinos.

We will know in a few months’ time if Ms. Aquino’s text was worth it – when the Mamasapano clash and the death of 44 SAF’s have been forgotten. A real tragedy, indeed.

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Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.