How to put closure to Marawi
A news item recently appeared in some newspapers on the proposed resolution at the House of Representatives to open an inquiry into the “lack of intelligence” that led to the Marawi siege on May 23, 2017.
We have not heard whether House Resolution No. 1760, filed by Lanao del Norte Representatives Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo and Abdullah Dimaporo and Lanao del Sur Rep. Mauyag Papandayan Jr. was given due course by the chamber. But as early as July 2017 we were already calling for an in-depth probe into the total failure of intelligence that resulted in the seizure of Marawi City by local jihadists pledging allegiance to the now defanged Islamic State.
That there was a failure of intelligence in Marawi is no longer an issue. Even President Duterte admitted to it in July last year. After his second State of the Nation Address, he told reporters that the government erred in its assessment of the situation, particularly in failing to detect that the Maute group had stockpiled weapons and built tunnels in the city.
If there will be closure to Marawi, the government should investigate how, despite ample resources for intelligence, the police and military authorities were completely blindsided by the terrorists. Last year, the total intelligence fund for the government was P3.49 billion.
The objective of this proposed probe is not so much to heap opprobrium on or pinpoint responsibility among concerned agencies as to learn lessons from mistakes. As Winston Churchill has said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
Also, the intent is not to denigrate the memory or lessen the heroism of those who died in the war, but to give justice to their sacrifice so that there will be no more similar killings that could have been avoided in the first place.
The proposed probe, however, should not be conducted by the House or the Senate lest it be turned into another circus or an opportunity for grandstanding by politicians planning to run for office in next year’s midterm elections.
The Duterte administration should establish an independent commission to look into the circumstances and series of events or developments that culminated in the well-planned and highly focused attack in Marawi that upended all that the military as protector of the Filipino people has stood for.
Such a commission will not be without precedent. There was the Agrava Commission that looked into the 1983 assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. There was the Davide Commission and, later, the Feliciano Commission that looked into the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, and the Melo Commission that examined the 2006 political killings.
The proposed commission should be composed of retired generals and retired Supreme Court justices. And it should function only as a fact-finding body. It should not be aimed at building a case of criminal negligence against anyone or putting blame on any unit of the military and police for what happened; it should deal only with the flaws and inadequacies in intelligence agencies in their gathering and monitoring operations.
The overriding aim of the proposed commission should be to plug loopholes in operations and institute needed reforms, such as more coordination, joint undertakings and intense training to fight new challenges to intelligence services.
It is proposed that among those to be summoned are the top officials of the Armed Forces, Philippine National Police, Intelligence Service of the AFP, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, National Counter-Terrorism Action Group, and the different intelligence branches of the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The officials in terror-plagued areas in Mindanao and experts in counterintelligence, both foreign and local, should also be summoned.
There should be a fixed timetable of six months for its work, after which its findings will be submitted for proper evaluation or action by Malacañang and/or Congress.
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Alito L. Malinao is a former diplomatic reporter and news editor of the Manila Standard. He teaches journalism at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and is the author of the book “Journalism for Filipinos.”
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