I wrote this article for the Philippine Online Chronicles.
After asking “where is the president” in the wake of President Noynoy Aquino’s skipping of the arrival honors for elite policemen killed in the special operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 29, many Filipinos are now joining the clamor for the president’s resignation.
The January 18 botched-up counter-terror operation that led to the death of 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), 18 Moro separatist rebels, and scores of civilians fed the growing anger of Filipinos against the Aquino government.
Where is the President?
The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo became the top trending topic on Twitter worldwide as Filipinos expressed their outrage at Aquino’s gracing of the opening of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s new car factory in Laguna rather than attend the police ceremony at the Villamor Airbase.
Many condemned President Aquino’s absence from the arrival ceremony. Many recalled how Aquino was quick to look after big corporations and attend celebrity events while being absent in big tragedies that befell the nation.
Many remembered how President Aquino was attending a celebrity wedding while typhoon Seniang pummeled the south. He also skipped Tacloban during the first year commemoration of typhoon Yolanda.
Many moreover pointed out how President Aquino said “I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know” when asked why he didn’t visit the wake of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, who was allegedly murdered by a US serviceman last year.
The President gave a speech during the necrological services for the slain policemen a day after their coffins arrived. But the president was again put on the spot for being late and thus putting the rites on hold to wait for his arrival.
His speech became the butt of jokes for being more about himself than the fallen cops. Many pointed out how Aquino always begins his speech in the vein of George Lucas’ Star Wars: “A long long time ago during the dark years of Martial Law my family and I . . .”
The Mamasapano operation was conducted in a known territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) even with the ceasefire between the government and the said group still in effect.
Not surprisingly, some quarters seeking to deflect attention from Aquino’s accountability in the Mamasapano bloodbath are now blaming the MILF for the entire fiasco.
They are calling for another all-out war. They seek to redirect growing outrage for the unnecessary deaths in the operation to the Moro rebels in Mindanao.
But this only make the Moro people victims twice over. First, from decades of oppression and discrimination that has been the basis for their taking up arms against the national government. Secondly, from another war that will leave the children, women, and elderly of Moro communities most affected.
An all-out war will only aggravate the long history of economic dispossession, land grabbing, marginalization, and discrimination of the Moro people and push them to fight all the more.
But we must never forget who the real enemy is: not the Moro people but the ones in power abusing the people. The Filipino people must hold the masterminds of the Mamasapano carnage accountable rather than be led into another senseless war against each other.
US puppetry and betrayal
If anything, the Mamasapano incident completely exposes Aquino’s puppetry to the extent of sacrificing the lives of the SAF men upon the instigation of the US. President Aquino, the loyal US puppet that he is, did not hesitate to push through with the operation as his contribution to the US “War on Terror.”
Aquino did this in secret, by-passing the chain of command, and even appointing his pal PNP Chief Alan Purisima to head the operation despite the latter’s being suspended.
In repeated speeches addressed live on national television, Aquino has not been forthright about what actually happened in Mamasapano. Instead, we have the President repeatedly washing his hands off any responsibility the incident.
Questions about President Aquino’s priorities have therefore increasingly turned into calls for accountability amidst the president’s perceived incompetence, arrogance, self-obsession, lack of leadership, and putting his little gang of kabarkada, kabarilan, and kaklase above everything else.
Many are realizing that justice for the victims in Mamasapano can be attained only by removing the President from power. They are pushing for the immediate resignation of Aquino for his betrayal of the Filipino people and puppetry to US interests.