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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

In House hearing a PNP superintendent questioned an AFP artillery officer on reported “stand-down” order at height of SAF--BIFF/MILF battle, resulting in failed SAF rescue. PNP guy challenged AFP colonel to “man up, Sir, man up.” But if there’s anyone who ought to “man up,” it’s the President and Commander-in-Chief---the only one who could order such “stand down.” P-Noy is also challenged to reveal full US involvement in Marwan plot. Sadly, nation is fed with details strip-tease style, seeking to make idiots of all Filipinos.

PNP Supt John Michael Mangahis and AFP Col. Gener del Rosario at House confrontation

At the recent hearing of the House committee on the Mamasapano tragedy, Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of Philippine Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade in Maguindanao had a confrontation with two PNP officials involved in that botched encounter, namely, PNP Chief Supt. Noli Talino and Supt. John Michael Mangahis. Col. Del Rosario had said his unit did not respond to the PNP request for artillery support because the PNP officers did not provide clear information on where the beleaguered SAF commandos were pinned down. Del Rosario was quoted in Philippine Star as saying that “They could not provide us with a clear answer” and “they even tried to call someone on their mobile phone.”

PNP's Talino and Mangahis rebutted Del Rosario, saying that they even brought to the AFP unit a map showing locations of two SAF teams that were engaged by MILF fighters and a few huts occupied presumably by civilians. Mangahis even stressed to the Star that even assuming specific spots were not clear, the AFP officer could have verified them with his many informants in that area, “It’s not as if they are new in those areas.:”


Mangahis then said something that stunned the House representatives. Quoting popular military jargon, he told Col. Del Rosario, “Man up, Sir, man up.” Meaning, the AFP colonel should be man enough to admit the truth that the PNP has been driving at, to extricate itself from full blame for the failed SAF operation that cost 67 lives, including its 44 elite commandos.  This is that the military failed to come to the SAF's rescue because of a “stand-down” order to the AFP not to disturb the peace process between the MILF and the government.

This accusation from the PNP that the AFP had preferred to “stand down " rather than extricate the SAF 44 has been bobbing up and down in various hearings in the Senate and the House over the past 2 ½ months since Jan. 25. But this topic has been skillfully evaded by the P-Noy allies who control the House as well as by the military/police resource people, until Supt. Mangahis' "Man up, Sir." 

In fact at last Tuesday's hearing some allies of P-Noy sought to strike this jargon off the record; but the nation had already heard the exchange on TV and radio and read about it in next day’s newspapers.


It’s time indeed that various players man up to the entire truth about Mamasapano’s botched operation, instead of bits and pieces coming out in prolonged hearings that’s sapping the nation’s moral strength and making the populace cynical. BUT MORE THAN ANYONE, IT'S P-NOY WHO HAS TO MAN UP TO WHAT REALLY HAPPENED THAT FATEFUL DAY AND WEEKS PRIOR TO IT. He has tell all that transpired between him and his best friend , resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima whom he put in charge of the SAF operation despite his six-month suspension by the Ombudsman on corruption issues---perhaps in the hope that Purisima could redeem himself. And finally, to complete the ignominious triumvirate,  SAF Chief Getulio Napenas, who was subsequently fired because of the monumental blunder. 

Among these three plotters of that tragi-comedy Napenas is the least guilty but equally stupid. 


P-Noy has spoken before the grieving nation no less than four times since the tragic massacres and the Palace says he does not want to speak any further on it;  instead, he  has pleaded with the Filipino people to understand him and move on. But P-Noy has to first man up as the full story of that most tragic episode in Philippine history is obviously NOT COMPLETE. His revelations have been more like a prolonged strip-tease act and the nation, still grieving, won’t forgive him unless he renders a true and sincere confession. 

Unfortunately, in all their statements P-Noy and his BFF Purisima have freely contradicted themselves and dished out more untruths---thus plunging P-Noy's approval rating to an all-time low of 11%. As Standard's Tony Lopez put it, nearly every other Filipino doesn't want Aquino to remain in office a day longer. 

Best to man up, Mr. President


Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House, who seem to be the only ones with guts these days, have posed, more than two months after the tragedy, “20 Questions” for P-Noy to answer before any reconciliation can be made. These are cogent questions, direct to the point and the heart of the matter.

Among them: If Purisima was just an “expert adviser,” why did P-Noy say he ordered him to coordinate with acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina and AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang? When he ordered Napenas to report to then suspended Purisima, wasn’t that a violation of the chain of command? What were P-Noy’s orders to Catapang and WesMinCom Chief Rusty Guerrero regarding the peace process with the MILF in implementing the extrication? More specifically, “Did you give any orders to stand down? Did you give orders to Catapang or Pangilinan not to fire artillery in Mamasapano in consideration of the Peace Talks?"

If a survey were to be taken about whether the people believe that the AFP was given the stand-down order to hold its artillery fire, the result would be overwhelming. The nation knows that only one person could have given that order: the President.


Another question even murkier than the peace process is the US involvement in the botched operation. As the House Minority bloc put it in a question to P-Noy: “Why did you allow US intervention---from the planning, funding, training, ISR, and during the operation and the subsequent evacuation? Why did you find it necessary to work with the US but not with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP OIC Espina or AFP Chief Catapang?”

Interestingly, the issue of US involvement, including reports about a number of Caucasians killed in the Marwan operation and P-Noy monitoring from the US drone base in Zamboanga City, had been skirted in the House. But today the issue of an “entry fee” of P60 million said to have been imposed on the Kano to enter Marwan's area was reported by the Manila Times (a side facet of this reported issue alleges that the Kano had only P50 million with them, hence the eruption of trouble).


There's popular belief that P-Noy sacrificed the SAF 44 to preserve the peace process with the MILF, as embodied in the Bangsamoro Basic Law whose deliberations have been suspended in the House since the Mamasapano tragedy.  P-Noy appears determined to pass the BBL and gave Congress a deadline before his last-ever SONA on the last Monday of this July, amid warnings about "more body bags needed" if the BBL is not passed.

Complicating matters, however, was recent revelation that MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal may be Malaysian and admits to using various noms de guerre or aliases; in fact he admits to not using his real name even in the Philippine passport he carries. On the other hand, Peace Process Secretary Ging Deles has admitted being totally unaware that Iqbal is on an alias (!). The salt on wounds, however, is that he also has the temerity to say that he would reveal his true name once the BBL is passed!  

Given this new layer of deception, the National Peace Council, composed of prominent leaders close to the President whom he appointed to help sell the BBL to the Filipino public fast, would perhaps be better advised to go slow and assess being identified with this bundle of confusion and lies. At the very least, its distinguished members have nothing to gain from it. 

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