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Editorial

Reopening wounds

/ 03:33 AM January 08, 2016

Everything we need to know about the plan to reopen the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy can be found in the proposed date of the reopening: the first anniversary of the fatal encounter which led to the killing of the Malaysian terrorist bomb-maker Marwan, as well as the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front regulars and three civilians.

If Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile does have important new information about the tragedy, and the Senate rules committee has green-lighted the unusual resumption of hearings, why wait until the last week of the month before revealing any of it? If the new information is material to the ongoing legal cases and potentially cathartic to the still-raw sensitivities of the surviving kin and a still-shocked public, and the rules committee led by Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano has cleared the path, why let it fester for weeks on end, adding poison to the already toxic mood? If the quality of the new information is grade A, and the chair of the main committee in charge of the legislative investigation says she has no objections, why merely announce its existence, and wait until Jan. 25, the anniversary, to ventilate it and have it verified?

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It is a perverse way to mark the anniversary. Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the committee on public order, announced the date of the new hearing the other day, then made the following curious assertion: “Let it be stated as I manifested before, the new hearing/s will not affect or void our earlier findings. It has been signed by 21 members.”

Does this mean that a majority of the members, or Poe herself, has prejudged the new information? If Enrile is right, and his reported consultations with the SAF survivors offer new evidence, Poe or her members should not foreclose on the possibility of a change in the committee’s findings—unless they have been assured that the new information confirms their original conclusions.

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Or does it mean that Poe’s committee, and the Senate rules committee which allowed the resumption of the completed inquiry, wanted simply to give Enrile the time and opportunity to air his views on the tragedy? Enrile was in hospital detention during the original hearings (indeed, he avers that his new information comes in part from his meetings with the SAF survivors while they were in the same hospital). If this is the case, then the Senate is bending over to accommodate the wishes of the opposition leader, but is in fact unwilling to consider changing its mind on the tragedy.

Or, a related possibility, does it mean that the resumption of the hearings really does not matter, it is only for show, and regardless of what will happen, the original conclusions stay the same?

The date chosen to resume the hearings gives the game away. The parties involved want to make political capital of the tragedy. Waiting for the anniversary to reveal “new matters and perspectives” (Poe’s words, as quoted by Cayetano) is taking the symbolism of the event too far.

But the main arguments have already been made. President Aquino committed a severe lapse in judgment when he allowed a disgraced, sidelined Philippine National Police chief to run a high-risk secret operation. The SAF made a terrible mistake in not trusting the Philippine Army enough to tell its counterpart about the operation ahead of time. The MILF failed signally to locate the presence of Marwan in neighboring territory, and to stop its men from using unreasonable force against the troopers. The Poe committee report, despite its politicized language, called these and other aspects of the tragedy right.

The consequences have also been made clear. President Aquino suffered his worst crisis of confidence in the aftermath of the tragedy. And—the unkindest cut of all—the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law has been imperiled.

If the new information is legit, call the hearing to order right away. In that way, the possibility of producing a more complete picture of the Mamasapano tragedy in time for the first anniversary is preserved. To open old wounds on Jan. 25, instead of offering the chance of healing, strikes us as callous, cruel, calculated. It’s almost like people are running for the presidency or something.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Grace Poe, Juan Ponce Enrile, Malaysian Terrorist, Mamasapano, Mamasapano tragedy, Marwan, SAF 44, Special Action Force
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