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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Despite public pressure P-Noy refuses to apologize for ill-fated Mamasapano operation, but public already holds him accountable. This administration seems on auto-pilot as P-Noy sits on crucial appointments and contracts, and is no show at events. It’s time like this that we should have parliamentary system---which operates on trust and where no-confidence vote could usher a new era---instead of a presidential system where lousy administration has to be endured because of fixed term.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles

Sorsogon Archbishop Arturo Bastes
Marbel, South Cotabato  Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez

President Aquino is under pressure to apologize for the Mamasapano tragedy, in much the same way that former President Macapagal Arroyo was prevailed upon by various people, including the Hyatt 10 Cabinet members, to say “I’m sorry” for her call to a Comelec commissioner to make sure her votes in the 2004 elections are protected. That call of PGMA, at best improper and inappropriate, was seized upon by her critics, among them this very same Hyatt 10, now P-Noy’s staunchest allies, to demonize Arroyo till the end of her term in June 2010.

Now P-Noy is in the same boat as a number of bishops have joined the clamor for him to resign on account of the death of 44 SAF commandoes, 18 MILF soldiers and three civilians in Mamasapano last Jan. 25---for which he is held, and rightly so, directly responsible. Aquino refuses to apologize and his Palace spokespersons justify it asserting that P-Noy was not to blame, for as President he had nothing to do with the “operational aspects” of the tragic operation; instead, he’s only concerned with “policy directives.”

In other words, the Palace is insisting that resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima and relieved SAF Chief Getulio Napenas acted on their own  and should therefore take all the blame.


There’s probably no citizen around who’d dream that P-Noy would ever take the blame and apologize for the tragic SAF operation; in his mental state he has always deflected responsibility---and blame--- for every failure of his nearly five-year administration to underlings, never to himself. It's only normal people who can be persuaded to say “I’m sorry” and P-Noy certainly cannot be deemed normal.

To be fair, it must be tough for any president to apologize, and were P-Noy to do so his staff and allies would doubtless be divided on this issue. I recall former Representative and Governor Luis Villafuerte telling me after GMA’s apology to the nation in 2005 how he had tried to stop her from doing so, but he just couldn’t get through to her (maybe the Hyatt 10 surrounding GMA blocked that call).  But make that apology GMA certainly did and it took a lot of guts and humility to do so.


Indeed, we citizens just can’t see P-Noy saying “I’m sorry”---not for the Luneta hostage fiasco that saw seven Hongkong tourists and one disturbed former cop  killed, and not for the Mamasapano tragedy. Poor former President Joseph Estrada, ever the “pusong-mamon,”conveyed his apologies to the people of HK but never P-Noy. And instead of apologizing to the SAF widows who demand justice for their fallen heroes, he issued baffling statements that rendered them more hurt and perplexed, and left the nation boiling in rage.

But even if the President does not want to apologize and never will, the hearings in both chambers of Congress and in the videotape of the inquiry conducted by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas of the SAF behind closed doors last Jan. 26 and uploaded on the internet, caused people to come to the inevitable conclusion that P-Noy is directly responsible for Mamasapano and that Purisima and Napenas were just taking orders from him from the beginning.

As Manila Standard columnist Fr. Ranhillo Aquino put it, the Jan. 26 video was clearly "the 'smoking gun' and that there was indeed a cover-up emanating from P-Noy, and it establishes in no uncertain terms his direct hand in the operation from its inception.”


The Palace defense---that Napenas disobeyed P-Noy’s instructions to coordinate with the military--- is a very lame one, for there was also the order to coordinate on a “time-on-target, i.e., when the operation was already in full swing and therefore AFP units could no longer respond adequately because field men and assets cannot be mobilized at the snap of a finger---or in Napenas’ case, in a text message to the Army commander in the region.  

P-Noy botched the operation by wanting to play general and therefore he's responsible for lost lives---and should apologize to the bereaved families but he won’t.


The shocking blunders in Mamasapano---which unfortunately have put to shame our security forces--- have caused so much distrust among the people toward this administration, reinforced by many failures of governance in other aspects.  For instance, former Sen. Ernesto Maceda wrote in a recent column in Star about the vacancies in crucial government offices that include the chairmanships of the Commission on Audit, the Comelec (plus two commissioners there) and the Civil Service Commission, and a permanent secretary in the Department of Health. Only very recently did he fill up the vacant post of PNP-SAF commander with Chief Supt. Moro Virgilio Lazo. 

Maceda also quoted a Cabinet member as admitting that “so many papers are pending for months on the President’s desk” and that he has not released the list of recipients of the Malamapaya Fund and the President’s Social Fund, nor has he acted on pending contracts especially in the public-private partnership (PPP) projects."


It seems that government is on auto-pilot right now, and the President seems ill-disposed to buckling down to work. There are reports about frequent late nights out with the KKK buddies (he's often seen at Valle Verde 5), which makes you wonder what time he gets up mornings to work or keep appointments. 

Star columnist Babe Romualdez wrote that P-Noy failed to show up at the Joint Foreign Chambers' "Arangkada Forum" at Makati Shangri-la the other day, which is unfortunate as the JFC is the biggest coalition of foreign investors in the country and as Babe said, "it would have been a perfect opportunity for the President to reassure foreign businessmen that the situation is under control in light of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano debacle." Nang-indian si P-Noy.


The recent tragic events, plus the state of chaos in governance have made it more imperative now than ever to shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system. Under our presidential system, P-Noy has until June 30, 2016 to vacate his post, and perhaps 80% of our people right now would agree that 15 months more with him at the helm is much too long. Moreover, the PCOS machines that outgoing Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes ensured to put in place through a midnight deal one day before he retired, would make sure that P-Noy’s handpicked candidate in 2016 would win.

It seems like a dreadful dead-end indeed in our presidential system. This is the reason why a-building among thinking and concerned Filipinos is the forceful argument for a shift to the parliamentary system---where the administration in power, once it loses the trust and confidence of the people, could be replaced by a new government formed by another group of parliamentarians. If we had a parliamentary system the heightened discontent with the P-Noy administration would long ago have resulted in a no-confidence vote that would have ushered in another era inspiring of confidence and trust.


Trust is such a precious component in governance, and this is being severely tested and strained further these days, as the administration seeks to bamboozle Congress into passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) ASAP---despite its clearly unconstitutional provisions that would certainly be struck by the Supreme Court if the BBL were enacted.  

There are many eyebrow-raising provisions in the proposed law. For instance, there’s the proposed  grant of a state subsidy of P70 billion YEARLY that would be clear outside COA scrutiny;  the BBL proposes a COA-like entity for Bangsamoro, but some brave House legislators have already stressed that this staggering amount would again be a PDAF in the making for the 20 or so members of the proposed Bangsamoro parliament.  These and many other questionable aspects.


Congress shouldn’t cave in to the deadline imposed by Malacanang for passing the BBL,which is June 11, Congress’ sine die session, at the latest. Why the rush is obvious: P-Noy wants the BBL to be the crowning glory of his penultimate State of the Nation Address, even if eventually the BBL would get snagged in the Supreme Court (a number of former associate justices have spoken out strongly vs. unconstitutional provisions of the draft BBL). Columnists have also opined that he’s still moist-eyed about the Nobel Peace Prize.

Let’s all hope legislators of both chambers would hold their ground despite Palace pressure (and irresistible funds), and various lawyers’ associations would scrutinize the BBL line by line. It’s your moral duty to country and people, Attorneys. 

1 comment:

  1. Another brilliant and well-crafted articled from a grizzled and veteran journalist.