By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The Mamasapano fiasco triggered the second worst crisis to confront the Aquino the son’s presidency. The first crisis was the result of the expose’ of Aquino’s version of pork barrel funds, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The anger toward the discovery of the DAP gave birth to the #MillionPeopleMarch and dealt a strong blow to Aquino’s much-vaunted armor of popularity. However, the people’s rage was still divided from among Aquino and his budget secretary Butch Abad, and the direct beneficiaries of pork barrel corruption the dishonorable men of Congress, who comprise the majority, and conduit Janet Lim-Napoles.
This time, it is the Aquino administration that is taking the brunt of the people’s rage. His allies have been trying to drum up anti-Moro sentiments, but Aquino could not ride on this because it would put in peril his much sought after ‘legacy’: a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the enactment of a Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Instead, President Aquino has been trying to deflect the anger at him by claiming that he did not give the go signal for the operations and by pinning the blame on the former chief of the Philippine National Police–Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) Getulio Napeñas, who ostensibly did not follow Aquino’s order to coordinate with the concerned units of the government, including PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the local government, among others, and for alleged incompetence in failing to adjust to the situation on the field.
President Aquino has also been trying to save his friend suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima by denying that the latter was commanding the whole operations and by praising his loyalty to the president.
But the testimonies at the Senate hearings proved otherwise. First, it was revealed that Purisima was attending the briefings with President Aquino about the operations. It was even Purisima, after a private meeting with the President, who ‘advised’ Napeñas not to reveal the operations to PNP officer in charge Espina, Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas and AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang.
Clearly, Aquino’s loyal friend suspended PNP Director Purisima was commanding the whole operations.
Second, it was also revealed that President Aquino arrived at Zamboanga City, purportedly to visit the Zamboanga bomb blast victims, a day before the failed operations. During the time of the battle, President Aquino was with Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero directing the “best effort” rescue operations for the SAF operatives who were frantically asking for reinforcements.
Clearly, President Aquino could no longer claim that he was not privy to the details of the operations. Nor could he deny Purisima’s major role.
This puts President Aquino in a fix. The people are angry with him and there is no one outside of the administration that Aquino could blame. Moreover, this time, the frustrations and anger at the administration are also coming from among its ranks.
The relatives of the 44 SAF men killed are demanding justice. SAF officers and men are frustrated at the government for leading their fallen colleagues into battle without any support and reinforcements.
PNP officer in charge Leonardo Espina and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas were bypassed and embarrassed in public for being clueless about the military operation of this magnitude. And the image of good governance that the Aquino administration has been projecting suffered another crack.
What will happen now? There is no way out of this fix for the Aquino administration but to hope that the issue would die down. It is also relying on US support; after all, President Aquino approved the operations to kowtow to the US and its war on terror. But the support of the US is precarious, as the latter readily drops its support for an administration if it becomes too politically costly. Anything can still happen as the administration has more than a year to go.