Where the culpability lies

The objective of the Senate investigation is to find out who are responsible for the bloody fiasco at Mamasapano that resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force commandos, 18 MILF rebels and several other civilians on January 25, 2015.
This clash also put the peace process with the MILF at grave risk, as it triggered a massive uproar against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now being tackled in Congress.
Unfortunately, the investigation after two long days of questions and answers is turning out to be a deliberate effort to cover up the culpability of the individual primarily culpable for this senseless loss of lives and putting the peace process in jeopardy.
That individual is no less than President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
Based on the testimonies that have come out so far, it is now clear the operation to take down Marwan and Usman was approved by the highest authority possible — the President. And calling the shots for the President was his bosom friend and buddy, suspended (now resigned) PNP director general Alan Purisima.
Despite efforts to water down the involvement of the President, it cannot be denied that the final briefing before the SAF operation on January 25 took place was held in the official residence of Mr. Aquino. As relieved SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas stated, he came out of that final briefing with the belief he had the tacit approval of the President. And what other conclusion could be drawn from the President’s conduct and demeanor?
It was here that culpable violation of our laws took place. President Aquino tasked the suspended PNP director general to run the show for him. It broke the chain of command. To make matters worse, the President kept Secretary Mar Roxas and Secretary Voltaire Gazmin out of the loop. The OIC Chief of the PNP and AFP chief of staff were also kept in the dark.
We have to keep this in mind. This is the only issue that matters to most people. We want to know if the President was behind this, and the answer is a resounding “yes”. Quite expectedly, the allies of the President, including Purisima and Napeñas, are deflecting the issues that would pin him down.
Let’s make sure this truth is fully exposed. That’s the only way for justice to be exacted. The President has to be held accountable and responsible. He cannot hide from his blunder. The lives of so many people were sacrificed because of his incompetence and stupidity.

A giant comeback

The appointment of Janet Garin as DOH secretary completes the comeback of the 1st district political dynasty in the national stage.Janet Garin
It shows the political adroitness of the patriarch, former Congressman Oscar Garin, in jumping from one administration to another.
The Garins have never stayed out of the political loop of every administration for too long.
In 2000, Oca Garin was appointed by Pres. Erap as presidential assistant for Western Visayas. He hesitated. He accepted the appointment sometime in November 2000 or thereabouts. By January 2001, Erap was kicked out from office, leaving Garin drifting in the political ocean.
But true to form, Garin quickly got into the good graces of the Gloria Arroyo administration. Before long, he was appointed as chief of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Garin was a marked man as far as Liberal Party leader Franklin Drilon was concerned. Drilon regarded him as a mortal enemy. Corruption issues flew thick in Garin’s wake. In 2010, Garin campaigned for Villar. When he saw that the victory of Noynoy was unstoppable, changed colors three days before the elections.
It was not enough to gain him entry into the good graces of the Aquino administration. He was ultimately removed as PCA chairman and once again stayed as a benchwarmer.
That changed, however, in 2012. Drilon embraced Garin to pave the way for a “unification ticket” for the Liberal Party. Garin’s wife and children all ran under the LP banner in 2013 and won. Janet Garin was appointed DOH undersecretary.
And now Janet is DOH secretary. Oca Garin must be wearing a big smile these days. He has once again outmaneuvered everybody, including the grand old man of the Liberal Party in Iloilo, Niel Tupas Sr.
Tupas, who sacrificed greatly for party platform and principles, does not even hold an appointive position.
I am not saying that Dr. Janet Garin is not competent. She is intelligent and capable. She might even make a good DOH secretary.
But the message is that this appointment conveys is that the Aquino administration has embraced traditional politics as a means to survival and strengthen its chances of getting a partymate to succeed H.E. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on June 30, 2016.

An acid test for the “tuwid na landas”

As I write this, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is delivering a report on the accomplishments of his administration during the first 100 days in office. A phrase that underlines the central message of his report is the commitment to walk on a straight path, “maglalakad sa matuwid na daan.” The President is reiterating that corruption will have no place in his administration, and in fact, the big work he has done during the traditional honeymoon period was to untangle the mess left behind by his predecessor.

But as the President talks about his efforts to combat corruption, Ilonggos couldn’t help but wonder how Oscar Garin Sr. continues to occupy the position as Chairman of the Philippine Coconut Auhority (PCA). Garin’s name has long been associated with corruption and patronage politics, and the prolonged stay in the agency is sending a wrong signal to the people of Iloilo, and even to the coconut industry, that President Aquino is also making concessions for political reasons. The word is that Garin’s appointment has been extended until December 2010 if only to give time for the Liberal Party leaders to decide on a possible alliance with the Garins.

The local leadership of the Liberal Party has loudly said “no” to any alliance with the Garin family. Will the President ignore this stand in favor of befriending the Garins? The LP Iloilo fears that this will be a betrayal of the principles that propelled President Aquino to the highest post of the land. And his decision on Oscar Garin will be an acid test for his vow to walk only on a straight path.

An imperfect Presidency

President Aquino should stop feeling insecure about his “imperfection”. No individual is perfect. It’s in the nature of human beings to be imperfect. In the same vein, no leader can ever be perfect. In running the affairs of a nation, mistakes are bound to be made. The important thing is that a leader learns from those mistakes. The worst thing that a leader can do is refuse to acknowledge mistakes, and even try to cover up on the causes of the mistakes.

These are the thoughts that flow through my mind as I pondered upon the statements made by President Aquino yesterday when he faced a panel of three TV journalists in a “no-holds barred” interview on nationwide TV. The Filipino people embraced the President’s brave act of showing complete transparency, but doubts continue to linger about his ability to put certain officials in his immediate circle on the chopping block. From the way he answered some questions, I detected a reluctance to show his displeasure to his close friends even when they committed clear acts of incompetence. President Aquino seemed determine to shield these friends from hostile fire in the arena of public opinion.

It would be unforgivable for the President to just sweep the blunders under the rug and use his popularity to absorb the shock. It will be a betrayal of the people’s trust in him. He can’t continue to govern this way. His energies will be depleted just trying to protect incompetent subordinates. He shouldn’t be afraid to tell close friends they have to go. The presidency is one great big responsibility. He may not be perfect, but he definitely has the power to remove ostensible causes of greater imperfection.

No holds barred

If there is one thing President Aquino can’t be accused of, it’s an unwillingness to confront questions about issues affecting the Presidency. President Aquino demonstrated this afternoon that he can wade through the surf to clear the air about what’s happened on Aug. 23 and perceived problems in his young presidency. It borders on the reckless, because Presidents shouldn’t really expose themselves to such grilling too much, but in the end he succeeded in communicating his message to the people where his subo rdinates have failed.

This is a sharp contrast to the last nine years during the incumbency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Transparency was placed in the storage room and replaced by opaque windows to hide a lot of transactions from public view. I think this afternoon’s exercise gave vent to the frustrations of millions of Filipinos who want President Aquino to succeed. Whatever his shortcomings, majority of his countrymen consider him the best hope for this nation. If he fails, then our nation will fail. By taking on the questions head-on, he managed to blunt the growing anger, and I think the situation will simmer down to allow his government to bring back focus to what it is doing.

A leader must communicate effectively to succeed. This is the most important lesson that we can draw from this episode. The President saw that the ship of state was drifting off course, and he needed to appear on national TV to stop it from going astray. To do this, President Aquino articulated his personal disgust over the bungled hostage rescue operation, which is the root for the people’s frustration and anger. He made it clear the operation wasn’t anything near desirable. He was misled into believing things were being run properly. And like so many millions who watched the botched operation unfold, he lost his own temper as the blunders came one after another.

Personally, I think it doesn’t change the fact that certain Aquino administration officials miserably failed to do their jobs as the crisis developed into a bloody affair. Instead of these key aides doing all the organizing and coordinating, President Aquino admitted that he even had to make many calls to get things done. A small group carrying the President’s authority could have handled the job effectively and avoided the bloody end. It’s a matter of these key aides knowing what they ought to do in a period of crisis.

The bloody end is a costly way for President Aquino to realize that things are not working well in his immediate circle of officials. It exposed organizational flaws that are so fundamental it is disgusting to think how it could have cropped up in the first place. It betrays arrogance among his key advisers in refusing to let experienced officials contribute to the gargantuan task of rebuilding a tattered economy. And the much talked-about rift between the “Samar” and “Balay” groups is a major reason why all these things are happening. This clash of egos has resulted in deaths.

It’s time the President make everybody understand there is only one ship captain, and that’s him. Factions are normal in any organization. The challenge for the President is to stay on top and make decisions after hearing clashing ideas. He can even harness the quarreling groups’ energies for the good of his nation. The difference is that when he makes a decision, he puts a “period” to the issue. Any behavior that will obstruct the captain’s duties should be considered mutinous, and the guillty party forced to walk off the plank.