We can think of many reasons why the country’s top policeman, now serving a six-month preventive suspension order for alleged involvement in an anomalous contract, should break his silence on Oplan Wolverine. But instead of speaking up about what he knows or does not know about the ambitious, ultimately disastrous plan to arrest two top terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, an operation that claimed the lives of 44 of his own Special Action Force troopers, Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima has apparently decided to leave town to attend an international conference.
Reason No. 1 is plain common sense. When your name has been dragged into the middle of a raging controversy, and you are being accused of masterminding a major police undertaking that failed to coordinate with military units in the area of operation, resulting in the death not only of 44 SAF troopers or 14 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters but also four unarmed civilians, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to clear your name?
It has been eight days since the clash in Mamasapano; six days since the rumor that Purisima was involved started to make the rounds; five days since President Aquino confirmed on national television, through curiously evasive language about green-lighting the operation and an absurd assurance to investigate why Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP officer in charge Leonardo Espina knew nothing about the plan—and Purisima has continued to remain silent.
One of the few nationally elected politicians to publicly take issue with Purisima’s fitness for office, Sen. Grace Poe, raises a simple question. “If your name is being linked to the incident but you were not involved in it, isn’t it natural for a person to defend himself, come out and say he had nothing to do with it?”
Reason No. 2 is loyalty to the institution one leads. When both Roxas and Espina say, and SAF commanders confirm, that they had no operational knowledge of the operation, the very integrity of the Philippine National Police as an institution comes under question.
“It [the plan] did not reach us in the command group,” Espina said on Tuesday. “That will be also tackled by the Board of Inquiry.” If, despite his suspension, Purisima had an active role in the planning of the operation, the deployment of the troopers (altogether 392 of them, as Roxas found out belatedly), and the green-lighting of the assault, then he should say so. Otherwise, the idea that the PNP is headless at the top, or the elite SAF unit had gone all but rogue, insinuates itself into the national conversation.
Reason No. 3 is a leader’s obligation to the truth. The Board of Inquiry has been constituted; three police generals are now tasked with the grave burden of ferreting out the whole truth about Wolverine: about who planned it, who gave the order to proceed, why there was a failure to coordinate in time with military units in the area, why the first ceasefire did not hold, and many other questions. It is Purisima’s duty to help his subordinates, if only by publicly declaring that he would make himself available to the board. His continuing silence has only added to the growing erosion of confidence in the work of the board
itself; the calls for a Truth Commission, or an independent panel of investigators, are fueled in part by public concerns about factionalism in the PNP, as exemplified by Purisima himself.
Reason Nos. 4 to 47 are the SAF troopers who lost their lives in Mamasapano. If Purisima sent them into battle, he should have been the first to denounce their deaths, to commiserate with their families, to promise justice. If he didn’t, well, he is still the national police chief, even though under suspension. He could have added his voice to the national chorus of outrage.
Reason No. 48 is commitment to the national interest. Is he keeping quiet because he would implicate either Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa or even President Aquino? Let him ask himself: Whom does he serve? The President, or the nation?
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