#AnimatED: Time to apologize, Mr President
The Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry’s (BOI) report on the Mamasapano clash, released March 13, 2015, is a triumph of independence and transparency.
The BOI report restores faith in the PNP as an institution. It shows that men who belong to this derided organization can be courageous and speak truth to power. With clarity and seriousness of purpose, they pursued the truth, no matter where it led. It pointed out flaws all the way to the highest office in the land, mincing no words. (READ: The truth and lies about Mamasapano)
President Aquino broke the chain of command, the report said in spare and straightforward language, by dealing with a suspended police chief, Director General Alan Purisima and allowing him to direct Oplan Exodus.
This is only one of the key findings of the 130-page detailed report which goes over the facts of the case with a fine-tooth comb and rigorously applies the precepts of “chain of command,” “command responsibility,” and “coordination.”
The BOI, led by Police Director Benjamin Magalong, did not hide in legalese and used “chain of command” as clearly as it could, in contrast to other government officials who skirted the issue by saying this does not apply to the PNP because it is a purely military construct.
The report was also immediately made public, uploaded in the government website, proof of a culture of transparency that has slowly seeped into the bureaucracy.
The January 9, 2015 meeting in Bahay Pangarap, wherein Purisima, Special Action Force chief Director Getulio Napeñas and PNP Intelligence Group Director Fernando Mendez briefed President Aquino on Oplan Exodus, was captured by the report well. Without making any explicit judgment, it provided telling details, showing the President’s poor judgment.
Aquino asked the group if they still trusted the AFP, this after the failure of past joint operations with the military that hunted down Marwan.
“None of the police officers answered the President’s query,” the BOI report said. “The President sat in silence…”
“At the end of the meeting, Mendez and Napeñas left the room, while PDG Purisima remained with the President.”
“When PDG Purisima caught up with them after the meeting, the suspended PNP chief told Napeñas: ‘Huwag mo munang sabihan iyong dalawa, sakana pag nandun na. Ako ang bahala kay Catapang.”’ (Don't tell the two beforehand; do so once the troops are in the area. I will take care of Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Catapang.)
It appeared to Napeñas that Purisima got the go-signal from Aquino. Sixteen days later, the tragedy in Mamasapano happened.
It is ironic that it is the BOI, composed of men who are at the operations level, that saw the big picture, the implications of Oplan Exodus on policy.
“As Chief Executive of the Philippines, the President could have given strategic guidance to Napeñas on the implications of conducting a law enforcement operation within MILF-controlled communities,” the report said.
Predictably, the BOI report will provide fodder for the opposition. They will shout “Resign!” till they are hoarse. They will recourse, perhaps, to an impeachment. Some will even file cases when Aquino steps down.
But for most of us, this is less about legal liabilities but about the credibility of a leader, about his moral ascendancy, about his meaning as president who was overwhelmingly voted into office.
He can no longer stonewall and say he did the right thing and lay the entire blame on Napeñas who “fooled” him. He can no longer cut Purisima out of the picture.
He can no longer drown himself in details and forget that he is a leader who has to uphold public trust.
It is time to rise to the challenge: admit his mistake, apologize, and resolve to put his executive house in order. This is not a sign of weakness, far from it, but a sign of courage.
The apology we expect is different from Aquino’s sweeping rhetoric of February 6, 2015 when he said, “As president and commander in chief, I bear responsibility for whatever victory, suffering, or tragedy we may get in our desire to achieve long-term security and peace…I will carry this burden up to the last days of my life.”
The BOI report has specifically pinpointed the President’s mistake. He can take off from there. After all, coming clean and owning up rebuilds trust.
It is not an easy task, it has its risks, but it is the path the high-minded and those lofty in spirit take. – Rappler.com