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 19, 2015

Now that both chambers of Congress have shut the door to public hearings on Mamasapano, there’s little chance of truth surfacing with PNP board of inquiry investigating its own people. What truth can Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Soc expect from that board? Let’s support the National Transformation Council’s appeal for regime and system change.

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

CBCP President, Archbishop Soc Villegas

Our nation is in deep crisis, brought to the fore by the lack of credibility and competence of President Noynoy Aquino and his student-council Cabinet in handling the botched SAF operation. Filipinos from all walks of life are voicing out their opinions on the very grave problem of rift and division that the nation faces, and it’s imperative, as Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Broderick Pabillo stated in recent tweets, that we make a firm commitment to save our nation before this crisis deepens even more.

Like the growing number of citizens across the country, I fully support the advocacy of the National Transformation Council (NTC) for regime and system change, based on a platform dominated by moral regeneration. Our times call for  forthrightness and an unequivocal commitment on our part as citizens---we are talking of a country so broken and we are all being called to help rescue it for the future generations. No other way to look at it.


One of the institutions deeply affected is the Church whose ranking officials are divided among those who want P-Noy and his cabal out and replaced with more competent leaders now na, and those who are still willing to give him some quarter to “tell the truth about the Mamasapano operation.” Among those in the latter group is CBCP President Socrates Villegas, known to be close to the Aquino family, who has publicly said that the CBCP would await the result of the investigation by the board of inquiry designated by P-Noy on the SAF operation,  before taking a more concrete position on P-Noy’s leadership.

Because he’s president of CBCP, Villegas is, of course, quite influential over his colleagues.  The problem, however,  is that President Aquino has no history of full and honest disclosures---his four and a half years have been a series of strip-tease type revelations. He has disappeared from public view for many days now, and the only voice one hears from the Palace is that of Communications Chief Sonny Coloma whose credibility is even lower than that of his boss.


Corollary to P-Noy’s disappearance is the House of Representatives’ move,  at Malacanang’s instigation, to stop its probe of the Mamasapano operation and the Senate’s decision to restrict its own investigation to closed-door executive sessions.  It’s obvious that the move of both chambers to limit public involvement in their probes arises from fear that many more sordid aspects of the PNP operation could come to light.  

One of them is the question of just how much was the US involvement in the operation to get those international terrorists. News reports are now surfacing about military-type Caucasians in civvies who were on the ground in Mamasapano and at SAF Chief Getulio Napenas’ command post some kilometers away.  Some analysts say these are mercenaries, while others suspect the CIA hand.


There are also unconfirmed reports that the Kano funded the entire SAF operation. Recall that Napenas was asked this question at the Senate hearing and he said the cost of about  P100 million came from PNP funds, but it seems more credible that the funds came from the Kano. In fact many media people have commented that the big story of Marwan’s capture and the brutal savaging of 44 SAF troopers have been studiously kept out of international media networks like CNN. Was this deliberate  to protect the US role here?

The US angle is intriguing, as it could have a direct link to the reason why P-Noy kept the whole SAF planning and operation secret---involving only his most trusted and loyal buddy, resigned PNP Gen. Alan Purisima, and the latter’s handpicked man to handle the operation, relieved SAF Chief Gen Napenas.  Could the Kano angle be the reason why even acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas were kept out of the loop, as was the military command---until the whole operation bogged down and needed desperate rescue from the AFP?


At this point we’re conjecturing on a lot of issues surrounding the failed PNP operation, but one thing seems certain: now that the congressional probes are away from the public eye, we may never get to the bottom of the truth. This hitherto undisclosed angle of the US involvement could  be the main reason the two chambers of Congress have shut their doors to public hearings. Now the truth about Mamasapano is at the mercy only of the board of inquiry composed of PNP officials. But citizens have a right to ask: if the police is to investigate its ranks, can we truly expect the truth to come out?  

Members of the House minority have filed a bill seeking the creation of an independent Truth Commission, which has also been the demand of ordinary citizens from Day Two, but  Malacanang has ignored our plea. Now, given the subservient nature of Congress it would take an eternity to even pass that bill creating an independent commission.  

People power seems to be the attractive, non-violent solution to the truth impasse. Let’s support the clamor of the National Transformation Council (NTC) for regime and system change! 


Earlier I cited CBCP President Soc Villegas’ position that the CBCP won’t support any resign-call vs. P-Noy at the moment, as it prefers to await the results of investigation by the PNP board of inquiry. Doubtless due to public pressure, however, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop Soc and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma have now began to press P-Noy more emphatically to disclose the whole truth about the SAF operation---even as they continue to stay aloof from the call of their brother bishops for P-Noy to resign now. 

In the next few days, however, I can see more and more bishops joining the resign-call and that the top Church leadership would be increasingly isolated if it refuses to heed this public call for a Resign-Pinoy. 

Some significant churchmen such as Fr. Eliseo Mercado of Notre Dame University in Cotabato and Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, have  opted for stronger pressures on the President to tell the truth. Fr. Mercado has been very open about this in social media. In his tweets Bishop Pabillo has reminded military chiefs and government officials that “their loyalty is to the Filipino people and not to the President.” And happily, he even admitted in a recent tweet that “In the situation now, I am open to extra-constitutional change” as he prods his readers, “Are you? We need creative destruction in the country for a better future.”


Sadly, however, because Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu City, led  six prominent bishops from all over the country for a Resign-P-Noy call last Friday, Feb. 13, at his residence, he is now the subject of intense disinformation. Some quarters are trying to paint this venerable 84-year old Church leader as senile and no longer in command of his faculties---which is farthest from the truth. In fact, looking at him as he read the NTC statement at at last Friday's press conference, I thought he looked so much healthier than last year; doubtless God is giving him the strength to lead the movement for moral transformation of our badly broken nation.

The personal attacks on Vidal only show that his name still carries a loud ring of truth and credibility.


Cardinal Vidal has been with NTC from its inception over three years ago, and significantly he was joined at his birthday in Cebu City last Friday by other multi-faith leaders in calling for P-Noy's resignation. On that occasion five Catholic bishops, namely, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Archbishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong and Bishop Filomeno Bactol of Naval, Biliran were in attendance, while Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos was represented by Fr. Lito Clase. Also attending were Protestant leaders Rev. Arthur Corpuz of the United Church of Manila and Bishop Butch Belgica of the 3000-strong congregation of "Christian Bishops and Ministers of the Philippines. These inter-faith leaders met the media at Vidal’s residence and all the major newspapers in Cebu bannered his leading the Resign-P-Noy advocacy. I was there to witness that historic gathering that took many hours. 

The opening paragraph of Cardinal Vidal’s two-page statement was couched in diplomatic language as befits a Cardinal, but the intent and sentiment is clear: he joined his brother bishops in calling for Aquino to step down. No ifs and buts about it, despite the claim to the contrary of a certain Fr. Jojo Aquino, said to be Vidal's secretary (related to President Aquino?), and the effort of a certain reporter from Rappler to make Vidal appear as wavering in his conviction.


  1. We all pray that something good will still come out of this tragedy. For one, the deceptive BBL should be junked. The violent response from the terrorists that may follow should be dealt with resolutely and severely but justly by the AFP.

    We know the sorry consequences of more lives being offered but we must accept it as the price to pay for our leadership's blunder of not resisting the foreign powers who impose on us their will. It is the ransom for our past mistakes of capitulating to the enemy to buy "peace". We must deal with this problem by ourselves with our own best way possible. The price may be high but it is the better alternative than to surrender bit by bit our sovereignty and prolong our agony.

    "Si vis pacem para bellum" - If you seek peace, prepare for war.

    "There is a time for everything under the heavens. A time to heal and a time to . . ." (eliminate evil).

  2. Hi Ed Tirona, many thanks for your thoughtful as always reply. Our country is in the throes of a very deep crisis and unfortunately our top leader has neither the brains nor the inclination to deal with our problems resolutely. Let's pray that we will attain lasting peace with a minimum of conflict with our fellow Filipinos from the Muslim populace. We need tremendous guidance regarding the BBL and securing peace in Mindanao. Let's pray harder. Ed, can you invite Archbishop Tirona to the Lipa Assembly on Feb. 26? It would be an honor to have him there.