Unanswered questions about the SAF Massacre

by Jess Lorenzo

Posted at Jan 30 2015 12:04 AM | Updated as of Jan 30 2015 08:04 AM

I felt sad as I watched PNoy made his disclosure last night. I had so many questions that are tethered with statements of blame. Why was there no coordination? Was the peace process not considered?

As I thought about it more (and listen to the president's speech again), I began to see some more things that made me ask deeper questions that remain unanswered till this time.

The president's speech left a brave impression. It revealed lapses on his part that he seemed forward in admitting. He did not coordinate enough with the MILF; continued to speak with Purisima; did not involve his Cabinet; and perhaps worst of all, engaged in a covert operation by himself. I am sure that there will be more hard questions he will answer as this unfolds. It will be tough in the next few weeks for him. But even as these questions loomed in my thoughts, there was one undeniable and solid conclusion I found: I have a president that is strongly, even personally, against terrorism. This fact was implicit in his speech but undeniably communicated.

The president was not the only one fast to take a posture of accountability in the matter. In the headlines Thursday morning, Special Action Force (SAF) head and PNP-SAF Director Getulio Napeñas admitted his fault and culpability of the operation to get Marwan - the Bin Ladin of Asia who masterminded the 2002 Bali bombing. Nepeñas admitted that he did not coordinate with the Army. He also admitted that he only informed his superior of the operation when it was under way.

As these two leaders accept faults for the covert operation, it dawned on me the dilemmas that they must have faced. Could it be that PNoy did not value the threat of the operation to the peace process? I doubt it. The general sentiment would probably agree that our president is seriously committed to this. But I asked myself why did he personally risk himself and even put the peace talks in temporary peril to catch a prominent and well-known global terrorist?

Apparently, the plans to catch Marwan have been there for a long time. There have been repeated efforts and different versions of operational plans that failed to neutralize the Bali Bomber. As it seems, our president has taken it personally to prioritize his capture at great risk.

With this new context, I find myself with new questions. First: Why is PNoy taking anti-terrorism personally?

I can comfortably speculate and see that our President probably does not want a Bali bombing incident in the country. He was most likely aware of the risks, but the failure to act may have been a darker proposition.

Second question: If the priority was very high, why not involve the Cabinet and the MILF in making a concerted effort? I still cannot see the reason why DILG Secretary Mar Roxas was not made aware. It would have been tactically sound and the risks would have been reduced or spread. But I wonder more on why the MILF was not made aware.

Our government has been quick to admit fault without putting blame on the MILF. PNoy was even explicit in his hopes that the MILF would help. But I wonder what culpability would the MILF bring to the table. Would they somehow own this tragedy as well in one frame or another or would just lay blame? It is after all the BIFF that killed the SAF. Were they protecting Marwan? How is the MILF taking this? How would they deal with the BIFF? How committed are they to the peace process? How can Marwan find sanctuary in their realm even with repeated attempts to catch him?

The peace process is very important to the country. It is even a milestone in the Aquino administration. Unfortunately, in the context of global terrorism, the peace with the MILF would be in peril if they are complicit in protecting terrorists. This question cannot be set aside. If we do, the peace talks would be jeopardized even more.

Which brings me to the biggest question: Is the MILF against terrorism?

For me, this is a very primal question that need to be answered before continuing the peace talks.

This is the challenge that is before the MILF which they need to prove beyond statements.

Otherwise, the peace talks are already dead even as we all fight for this as a country.

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Jess Lorenzo is a Board Member of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.