Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Not only was there a botched SAF operation, now there’s also the “Lost Command” as Palace apologists led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima insist that the chain of command principle applies only to AFP but not to civilian PNP. Miriam argues that a similar principle could be incorporated into PNP operation. Confusion about this time-honored concept directly caused SAF tragedy.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, absent for days because of her ailment, was allotted a full hour at this morning’s Senate hearing and one of the most interesting things she said was that she heard of a coup in the making among a group of plotters answering to a name like an alphabet soup and financed by "a very rich man.” So, is there such a coup plot brewing?

It wouldn’t be surprising if there's one or even two or three plots seeking to remove the President and install a new leadership and/or even a new system of government. Buzzwords such as regime change and systems change find their way into many thoughtful columns and forums these days. 

One of the more articulate forums is the National Transformation Council (NTC) headed by prominent leaders of different faiths---Catholic bishops, Protestant pastors, Muslim leaders and the like. The NTC calls for moral transformation as the basis of political action and governance, and this platform is steadily gaining among reform-desperate citizens who lament the moral degeneration and paralyzed governance around us.


For it's plain to see that many citizens are unhappy about the way the country is being run and institutions are being destroyed one by one. In previous months we saw the degeneration of both chambers of Congress as money politics and corruption became more prevalent than ever. There were the attempts by the ruling power to destroy the independence of the judiciary. Today there is the "sisihan" between the PNP and the AFP in full view of the citizenry, something we never witnessed before. One can go on and on with a review of downed institutions. 

Is it any wonder that there would be brewing moves to change not only the regime but the system as well? 


To be honest, this blogger was among those who had hoped that Sen. Miriam would expound more clearly and forcefully at the Senate hearing on the concept of chain of command in the PNP set-up. This is because we the people feel the need to be enlightened on this tenet after hearing PNP officials such as relieved SAF Commander Getulio Napenas and resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima insist that there is no such doctrine in the civilian agency that's the PNP, as it's only operative in the AFP.  It became even more imperative to dissect this assertion after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gave a similar opinion on this doctrine at the Senate.  

 Unfortunately the feisty Ilongga senadora merely glossed over this concept  (perhaps due to lack of time) even as she mercilessly grilled P-Noy's two allies on who gave the order to execute Oplan Exodus. 


Over her four and a half years as Justice Secretary under Aquino, De Lima on a number of occasions has displayed such a fierce loyalty to him, and her definition of the concept of chain of command seemed to be yet another such example. At last Tuesday's second Senate hearing, she asserted, as quoted in the Daily Tribune of yesterday, Feb. 11, 2015, that inasmuch as the PNP is a civilian agency, there is no chain of command, unlike in the AFP where this is operative and the President is the Commander-in-Chief. 

This has prompted someone in social media to term the Palace set-up the “Lost Command.”

Miriam this morning reminded De Lima that “principles under the AFP structure, such as the chain of command, could be incorporated in the PNP operation,” to which the latter was just plainly happy to agree---relieved, doubtless, that the feisty senadora did not pick a prolonged fight with her on this issue. But this blogger finds this argument of De Lima plainly unjustifiable, and many citizens agree with me on this.

As a citizen reasoned in a text: “Does De Lima really believe that we’re all stupid to believe there’s no chain of command in the PNP because it’s a civilian agency? He argued that even business organizations have a chain of command, as otherwise, what’s the rationale for positions starting with foremen at the bottom, upwards?” One might add that even kindergarten schools have such a hierarchy. The texter concluded that this is a student council government alright. 


Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda expectedly echoes De Lima’s argument, but this is not only plainly stupid but encourages more mayhem and disorganization. What, for instance, is to discourage a company of patrolmen from starting to tote guns and shoot around because the hierarchical structure is unclear?

What's clear is that the tragedy of Mamasapano was the direct offshoot of an ill-defined chain of command in the PNP. The planning of the SAF operation was limited only to three people---the President, the former PNP Chief who was suspended since Dec. 4 and should therefore have been cut off from any involvement, but who continued to live in the White House in Crame and planned the whole operation, and SAF Chief Napenas. 


The game-plan of P-Noy’s strategists is to continue drawing fire to Purisima and Napenas, in order to absolve the President from guilt and blame. But it’s too late to parry the blame. Citizens can plainly see that having kept PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas out of the loop, responsibility has shifted entirely to Napenas, Purisima and P-Noy in ascending order. Had the Mamasapano operation been on a normal level devoid of unsound motives it should have involved, as President Ramos has stressed, acting PNP Chief Espina and AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang and their staff in a well-planned operation that should have guaranteed wider success. 

Instead, what came out was a poorly planned three-sheet intel packet which has been a nightmare for our people and the destruction of well-earned reputations and institutions.

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