IT was already on the fourth day when President Simeon Benigno C. Aquino III formally addressed the nation about the Mamasapano crisis that happened on January 25. Except to give a haphazard report about the 44 casualties from the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the long running intent to capture the international terrorist Malaysian Zukifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, the President seemed detached and dry.
But it was on his second address a few days after when public opinion was transitioning to become public outrage. It was getting clearer to many that the President was evasive in explaining his role and responsibility as president and commander-in-chief. His preference of attending the inauguration of a car factory with nary a national significance rather than lending his most needed presence at the arrival of the caskets of 44 special forces (who died in a dangerous mission that could only be the making of a high officer in a chain of command) was very telling of one kind of presidential demeanor. People were criticizing him for insensitivity, incompetence and evasiveness—which was characteristic of how he handled the bloody hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand in 2010 and the Zamboanga siege in 2013, or so the public perception goes.
From media reports it was established that as early as Sunday morning of January 25, President Aquino already knew of the Mamasapano operation. In fact he said so during his speech before the PNP-SAF officers on January 30, “Simula pa noong Linggo, umaga pa lang, sinabihan ha ako ng nagging resulta nitong kay Marwan. Tapos habang sinisiyasat naming ang pagbobomba sa Zamboanga, dumarating ang mga report,” (As early as Sunday morning, I was already told about the result of the operation against Marwan. Afterwards, while we were assessing the bombing in Zamboanga, other reports came.) Indeed, many lives could not have been wasted had someone acted in favor of life. Apparently, the powers-that-be favored other political agenda or something else.
As if these were not enough, the complicity of muddling up the truth belabors the obvious. On February 12, during the Senate hearing on this Mamapasano tragedy, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltair Gazmin and Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang, all said that they did not inform Aquino about the Mamapasano emergency right away. Resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima, who keeps popping up as one who is in the know about the Operation Exodus, did not give a good answer when asked if he informed President Aquino about the Mamapasano operation. He said he needed to seek clearance first from the President.
People have been clamoring for an independent investigation. Both houses of Congress tried to respond to this clamor by conducting separate investigation—in aid of legislation. But, tactically or otherwise, investigation conducted by the lower house stopped. And so is the one of the Senate by resorting to Executive Sessions which is exclusive and non-transparent. Is there an orchestrated move to bury the truth? This is seriously consequential knowing that history have painful lessons when leaders resort to cover up and lies.