Pambansang Epal

My February 10, 2015 column.

These are confusing times for the country.  We continue to grapple with the painful questions related to the massacre of 44 police officers in Mamasapano:  What really happened? Who was the Pied Piper who led the fallen 44 to their deaths?  Are the rumors about the involvement of US military people and certain national officials—the President included—in the planning and the actual monitoring of the military operation true?  Who is really telling the truth?  Should we continue to trust the Moro Islamic Liberation Front?  Is the Bangsamoro Basic Law—and by extension, peace in Mindanao—still worth pursuing at this point? 
Since no one in government has come forward with a plausible theory, a convincing explanation, or at the very least a reassuring statement so far, many are pinning their hopes on the results of the various inquiries that have already started. 
Unfortunately, if we are to go by previous experiences with similar inquiries I am afraid we’re in for more confusion in the next few days.  We do have this penchant for turning inquiries into soap opera-like confrontations - complete with major emotional breakdowns, big bold dramatic cinematic dialogues, and the occasional comedy.  And lest we forget, most of these inquiries can hardly be described as objective; the people who are supposed to champion impartiality usually end up badgering witnesses and pushing for their own political agenda.  They either end up defending allies or prosecuting political opponents.
A high-profile case such as the Mamasapano tragedy is expected to make or unmake political careers.  At its essence, politics is really about the distribution of advantages or disadvantages, so we expect a lot of political behaviors to surface in the next few days and weeks as people try to use the tragedy either to advance their careers and interests or to fortify the blame being heaped on others.
We are therefore not surprised that Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in his latest attempt at helping achieve clarity in midst of the confusion,  provided the all-important context of how things were during the time his father was President.  He pontificated thus: “I remember as President, my father was knowledgeable about every military operation.  The President would know about an operation this big.” In his rush to fortify President Aquino’s culpability for the massacre, the senator seemed to have become afflicted with temporary amnesia.  He has conveniently forgotten that military operations during his father’s dictatorship committed horrible atrocities that make the Mamasapano tragedy seem like an ordinary daily encounter.  The military, during the dictatorship, conducted hundreds of operations that killed thousands.  Tens of thousands more lost their homes and were deprived of human rights, salvaging was the order of the day, and people got arrested and detained simply for expressing dissent. 
Another nonsensical comment from the senator was that bit about how the MILF soldiers who had a hand in the death of the fallen 44 would end up becoming policemen by virtue of the BBL. It’s a generalization that is not supported by logic or fact unless the senator has powers of precognition that we are not aware of.
And then there is the Presidential sister who must not be named in this space.  The garrulous sister has been on a verbal rampage recently trying to take up the cudgels for her brother and in the process stirring up all kinds of controversies.  Her attempts at acting like the President’s overprotective mother is absurd (he is President of the country for crying out loud who should be able to speak for and defend himself besides being much much older) and frankly, does more harm than good to the country, her brother’s administration, and herself.


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