Is P-Noy ready to say ‘The buck stops here’?
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas raised a question that must be on everyone’s minds today: Who was on top of the mission at Mamasapano on Jan. 25 (“Mar: Who was on top of SAF dangerous mission?” News, 2/12/15)?
Based on the statements of three key players in Oplan Exodus—President Benigno Aquino III, resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and ground commander Getulio Napeñas—the answer is clear: The person in control of the whole operation.
On at least two occasions prior to the incident, Napeñas, accompanied by Purisima, went to Malacañang to brief the President on the progress of the police mission to capture two high-value terrorists. But only Purisima talked with the President and he was out of earshot, Napeñas disclosed in his earliest statements immediately after the Mamasapano incident.
Purisima never gave him any instruction to abort the mission. Instead, he continued to monitor the operation until the very day of the assault on the hideout of the mission targets. Thus, Napeñas stuck to his view that there was implied approval from the President for the mission to go ahead.
Here’s the rub. By the second meeting on Jan. 9, Purisima had been suspended by the Ombudsman, and an officer in charge was placed at the helm of the organization. The President said he gave instruction that the mission be coordinated with the OIC. But since it was only Purisima he talked to, his instruction could only have been given to the suspended police chief who, obviously, did not carry out the order. Instead, Purisima “advised” Napeñas to keep the OIC out of the loop, so to speak, until the operation was underway; Napeñas, aware of Purisima’s close relationship with the President, followed the instruction.
Evidently then, until the OIC was brought into the picture, there was no one else who had the authority to make the tactical decisions but the President.
It is not surprising that this spin is now coming out of Malacañang. The President did talk, after all, to Napeñas and had instructed him to coordinate with the OIC. The presidential approval of the mission was no longer implicit but explicit; however, for not following his instruction to inform the OIC, Napeñas became the fall guy.
This finger-pointing does not absolve the President from responsibility. There is a principle in the law of damages: A man must always exercise reasonable diligence in his actions. Would not the circumstances have dictated President as Commander in Chief to at least ascertain that his instructions for the OIC to take charge were followed? The OIC was also his subordinate whom he could summon at any time, even during his leisure hours at the firing range. He could have easily called the OIC directly instead of leaving Napeñas to thresh things out with the OIC. Only he, the President, could have effected the proper coordination, no one else.
The mark of a true leader is his readiness to assume responsibility for a decision that should have been his to make. One of the greatest of US presidents, Harry S. Truman, had a sign on his desk that read: The buck stops here. Sadly, our President is not ready to say this in regard to the Mamasapano incident.
—MARIO GUARIÑA III, former associate justice of the Court of Appeals, Parañaque City
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