In his so-called “True State of the Nation Address” (TSONA) delivered at the Cavite State University yesterday, Vice President Jejomar Binay dedicated a significant part of the speech to the memories of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers who were killed in a botched operation in Mamasapano, Mindanao.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas today criticised Binay for politicising the tragedy.
“Limang taon siyang nasa Cabinete na pumapalakpak sa mga tinatawag niyang palpak ngayon. Pero, worst of all, pinulitika niya ang kabayanihan ng SAF 44,” Roxas said in a statement released hours after Binay’s counter-SONA on Monday, August 3.
(For 5 years, he was part of the Cabinet that he’s saying now is a failure. But worst of all, he politicized the heroism of the SAF 44.)
Contrary to what Roxas is asserting, however, the massacre of these good officers of the SAF is a political matter. Indeed, it was President BS Aquino himself who made it political at its most fundamental levels. The fact that the operation — a police operation — was kept from Roxas himself who has direct accountability over the PNP is, itself, suspect.
That fact alone makes the SAF massacre political. But here’s more…
(1) The police operation was kept secret from the Philippine military in order not to compromise the on-going negotiations between the Philippine government and the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Putting hundreds of elite police commandos under an unacceptable level of risk because of on-going negotiations with an enemy force is obviously politically-motivated. President BS Aquino put the safety of his pet project right up there in priority with accomplishing the mission with minimal loss of police assets. Had the risk to BS Aquino’s BBL project in the operation been relegated to a secondary consideration (where it should have been), the mission could have been successfully accomplished and the PNP boys safely extracted from the field.
(2) Involvement of suspended PNP director Alan Purisima cannot be given a purely operational explanation.
On purely technical terms, nothing can justify including then-suspended Purisima in the management loop of the ill-fated Mamasapano operation. There was a clear command line underneath Purisima’s position in the PNP hierarchy that could have been followed. So why then was Purisima included and his say allowed to weigh heavily in the Mamasapano operation?
Because Alan Purisima is the President’s friend. In this instance, the politics behind the bizarre way the Mamasapano operation was managed is quite simple.
(3) President BS Aquino did not mention anything about the Mamasapano incident on his sixth and last State of the Nation Address.
President BS Aquino’s liberal use of videos and other communication approaches that made use of information cherry-picked to make him look good made his SONA unabashedly political in nature. It was not a speech to report on the true state of the nation. It was a speech to appeal for votes.
Therefore, President BS Aquino’s bald omission of the biggest negatives in his administration — the bungled Mamasapano operation that resulted in the loss of an appalling number of lives — was itself nothing short of a political decision. The BBL, which was the primary thing at stake in the decision to keep the Philippine military out of the planning loop of the Mamasapano operation involved billions of pesos in anticipated budget appropriations. As such, beyond its toll on the national morale, the BBL and Mamasapano’s impact on it was an exceedingly relevant item that should have been taken up in the SONA.
* * *
It is, indeed, unfortunate that unimaginable tragedy would be used as a chip in today’s political “debate”. The point is that it was President BS Aquino who set it up to be used so. And Mar Roxas, being Mar Roxas, would, of course, echo the sentiments of his powerful endorser. And that, Mr Roxas, is political.
[Photo courtesy Manila Bulletin.]
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