CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
12 February 2015
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s presence during the Senate hearing today on the Mamasapano incident is something that all Filipinos should be thankful for, as it was an eye-opener for the following reasons:
1) She showed how a question should be asked in these hearings
Most legislators in the past four days of legislative inquiries in the Mamasapano incident have largely failed to get detailed or clear answers from the resource persons from the SAF, PNP, DILG, AFP, as they already suggest the answers to these resource persons. Sen. Miriam’s questions elicit more details because she asks open-ended questions. She is also showing the right attitude or as what Sen. Allan Cayetano described as demeanor, in these hearings – stern, no-nonsense, and ready to lash out when she sees the resource person trying to give her the run-around in their answers.
An example of this was the one directed to Police Director General Purisima : “ how many times did you talk to Pnoy about OPLAN Exodus ?” Many legislators did not get clear answers on Pnoy’s involvement as most of them already included in their question the answer, did you tell Pnoy about the plan, or was Pnoy briefed about the plan, etc.
Another is when she asked Gen. Catapang : “What did Pres Aquino do when informed about the impending massacre of the SAF?” Gen. Catapang said he doesn’t know. But Gen. Catapang gave what Sen. Miriam described as a diversionary tactic. Later, he said Pnoy was not informed. Perhaps if the good Senator was not suffering from pain as she said, she could have followed up on the flipflopping answers of Gen. Catapang on this point.
2) She exposed the bullshit answers of Gen. Purisima for what they are
While earlier in her set of questions she called Gen. Napeñas a failure, an incompetent, for going it alone in the Mamasapano operation without the AFP, her exchanges with resigned PNP Director General Purisima on his preventive suspension, when the official performed the functions of his office in a surreptitious manner and Gen. Purisima talked about command and control and repeated his earlier infamous quip “I only gave an advise, not an order”, she immediately challenged Gen. Purisima not to play words with her, and let out a question : “really?”
Again Sen. Miriam repeated her question : “What made you violate your preventive suspension?” Gen. Purisima then blah-blahed about the distinction between delegation of responsibility but not delegation of accountability and Sen. Miriam was swift of her dismissal of Gen. Purisima : “ you should hear yourself talk!” with a loudly reproachful tone. She finished it off by saying she does not accept the answer.
3) She did not hesitate to teach a thing or two about some arcane features of the law involved in this incident
Sen. Miriam can also be unnecessarily pedantic at times, but she really got the public educated about the fact that there’s Anti-Terrorism Council under the Human Security Act headed by the Executive Secretary who should be having control and supervision over these types of operation against international terrorist Marwan, and also the following :
– The distinction between international armed conflict ( between two countries) and a non-international armed conflict (when a country fights within its territory rebel or terrorist groups);
– Why international humanitarian law is difficult to apply in the Mamasapano incident- it’s because the battle here is asymmetrical between the government and the various armed groups it had confronted;
– Distinction between armed conflict, where Republic Act 9851 applies and law enforcement, where the country’s criminal laws are the ones being considered;
– Does the civilian character of the PNP as espoused by the Philippine Constitution prevent it from developing it’s own concept of chain of command, which may be different from that of the military, like, maybe it can be called line of command.
4) She put MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal’s feet to the fire
Her questions to MILF negotiating panel Chair Iqbal:
– Can the MILF claim with a straight face that the MILF did not know that an international terrorist is operating on their sphere of control; Chair Iqbal said, they don’t know, she said his answer does not bind her it must be weighed with the evidence;
– Despite this disclaimer, these terrorists felt safe in their territory; bakit dun sila sa territory ng MILF; or in an area adjacent that the MILF can control; Chair Iqbal replied, it’s a community where all sorts of people are present, and they don’t know where these people are actually hiding;
– Bakit di nyo binulong sa govt panel na nandyan si marwan; Chair Iqbal replied – we have the Adhoc Joint Action Group; that’s the mechanism where there’s a long and deep relationship;
– Why did the MILF join the firefight instead of fighting with the govt; Chair Iqbal said the firefight started at around 4am, preliminary results of their investigation showed the distance among the fighters were just 5 to 6 m;
– How come the firefight lasted for several hours; here, Chair Iqbal’s answers are not convincing, as he compared the fighting similar to a fistflight with two burly fighters difficult to referee; and the forces here had high-powered weapons, to which Sen. Miriam replied, tell that to the families of the slain SAF;
– Is the MILF wiling to surrender rogue leaders from this incident and the response of Chair Iqbal was that from the beginning, we are bound by mechanisms but she was stopped by Sen. Miriam as her question was only answerable by yes or no and Chair Iqbal answered yes
– Finally, Sen. Miriam asked : how do you expect for the BBL to pass when this perfidious act, to which Chair Iqbal mentioned something about working together to attain peace.
5) She zeroed in ultimately on who should be held responsible for the fiasco- Pnoy
Similar to what the MAKABAYAN bloc in the House of Representatives tried but failed to do in their version of the inquiry, to make Pnoy responsible, Sen Miriam raised the following critical questions to put Pnoy squarely in the crosshairs of the inquiry:
– To Gen. Napenas : who are the people behind you?
– To Gen. Purisima : who was the person on top of the SAF commander; as Gen. Purisima is suspended and the PNP OIC Espina was kept out of the loop, to whom will the SAF commander report, except to him or ay sus maniwala ako? Or put another way : Did you tell the President to keep the operation a secret from DILG Secretary or did the president tell you to keep the operation a secret from the DILG Secretary?
The answers of these top police officials are unsatisfactory to Sen. Miriam. There is no other way to interpret their evasive answers except to point the direction to President Aquino.
No wonder some of the disgruntled military officials are already reported by Sen. Miriam as planning a coup d’ etat. As if this will solve or get clarity on what happened so that justice may be served to those who perished in this incident, or mis-encounter, according to the MILF, or a massacre if you take how the SAF families and the PNP look at this.