In the aftermath of the bungled mission to capture high-profile terrorist Zulkifli “Marwan” Abdhir, the Aquino government is now facing a morality crisis for failing to save the #Fallen44, the now famous dedicatory hashtag symbolizing the heroic 44 members of the Philippine National Police — Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who were brutally massacred by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last January 25 as they were attempting to capture Marwan who was found out to be hiding in Mamasapano, Maguindanáo Province. Recent reports have surfaced that Malacañán Palace, including the president himself, were aware of the PNP-SAF operation. But adding insult to injury, the president himself still insists on passing the divisive Bangsamoro Basic Law inspite of the obvious disrespect to the ceasefire ban on the part of the Muslim militants. Hence, his dilemma: an angry Filipino nation.
We are already aware of these infuriating facts. So let’s just tackle least talked about but pertinent (and intriguing) side issues relating to this second Maguindanáo Massacre which all concerned Filipinos ought to know. Let’s make this quick and straight to the point.
First off, where was the president on the day of the massacre? He was in Zamboanga City, just a few provinces away from Maguindanáo. Remember that on January 23 (Friday), a bomb placed inside a car exploded in Barrio Guiwan, Zamboanga City, leaving one person dead and more than 48 injured.
Two days later (January 25), President Noynoy Aquino and some of his staff visited the victim and the survivors of the blast. Something rare. If memory serves us correct, the president never did this in previous bombing incidents. Did he even care to visit the victims of another bombing in Maramag, Buquidnón (the real spelling of Bukidnon) last December 9? That bombing took more lives (11 dead, 43 injured) than the recent Zamboanga blast and was even caught on video, but the president was nowhere in sight in the aftermath. This leads us to ask what was special about that Zamboanga bombing which prompted the president to visit the victims?
Also, it is already made known to the public that Malacañán Palace was aware of the PNP-SAF mission. It appears that they have been planning for Marwan’s downfall for months (or perhaps even years). They even have a name for the operation: Oplan Exodus. But this should come as no surprise; take note that Marwan was no ordinary criminal. He’s on the list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists. And since he’s included in that “prestigious” list, a $5-million bounty was placed on his head: that’s roughly ₱220,477,500!
It is hard to believe that everyone involved in Oplan Exodus, from the president himself down to the PNP-SAF frontliners, didn’t have the booty in mind. This is not to say that the $5-million reward was the sole motivator of the operation. Ending Marwan’s despicable deeds, of course, count the most; his bomb-making skills have killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of innocent lives. However, we cannot discount the glaring fact that $5 million is $5 million, even though there are rules that only the witness or the person who pinpointed the whereabouts of a wanted man can receive the booty. Ending terrorism still has its monetary benefits albeit under the table, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
It only becomes wrong when greed gets in the way.
We already heard the story of how the PNP-SAF, in the ensuing 11-hour “misencounter”, radioed the military for help because they had been overwhelmed by the (allegedly) combined forces of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. But no help came. Later on, the military used the “ceasefire” clause as a cowardly excuse for snubbing the PNP-SAF’s call for help). Pretty strange, if not pretty dense.
To reiterate: President Aquino was in Mindanáo, at that precise moment when the PNP-SAF forces were being mercilessly obliterated one by one. It’s pretty mind-boggling for the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and one of the main architects of Oplan Exodus at that, not to know the dilemma being faced by the PNP-SAF forces in nearby Maguindanáo.
Was the military snub deliberate? Were their hands really tied by the ceasefire clause despite the obvious fact that the extremists were already violating it? Or better still, was the ceasefire clause simply used as an excuse to somehow enable the extremists to… get rid of the PNP-SAF forces? After all, once the PNP-SAF had arrested or killed Marwan, they would have divided the prize money among themselves.
Politicians remote-controlling the operation from afar (or from Zamboanga?) simply wouldn’t have none of it. The greed of some of these politicians are already common knowledge.
To make matters more confusing, another twist popped up: that Marwan’s death during the firefight could not yet be determined. Does that mean that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmín’s (imaginary) informant will have to wait? We do know that the privacy of the informant should be respected and protected. But in the light of this huge money issue relating to the arrest of one of the world’s most dangerous cowards, a thorough investigation of Oplan Exodus’ architects is in the offing, especially since Uncle Sam’s troops seemed to have some sort of involvement (as always).
And on top of this all, why President Aquino’s continuous support for the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law when its main supporters, the MILF, have brazenly violated the peace talks by meddling in the arrest of a terrorist?
Pardon me, but I smell a rub out.