Now many different accounts of the fateful day are heard left and right, causing confusion as each story is followed by the next. Issues start to bubble up to the surface as the country analyzes what went wrong in the operation and what could’ve been done to save the men.
In the midst of a he-said-she-said battle, Filipinos seek justice for their fellowmen and an understanding of what exactly happened on that day in Mamasapano. The LaSallian interviews Dr. Ador Torneo from the Political Science Department to get his thoughts on the tragedy in Mamasapano and its aftermath.
“It’s a matter of assigning accountability,” opines Dr. Torneo. He disagrees with the idea that only one sole person should own up all the responsibilities and be held accountable because for him, “it’s a shared accountability.”
“You can only be held accountable for your portion of mistake and its consequences. In that sense, they only have to own up to their particular lapse,” Dr. Torneo shares.
In pursuit of apportioning accountabilities appropriately, Dr. Torneo lays out the situation into specifics. For instance, he believes that Napeñas should be held accountable for the lapses only on the operational level as well as for obeying the suspended Chief of Police, Alan Purisima. Much more if it turns out that the directives issued were indeed unlawful.
But Dr. Torneo points out that “Napeñas does not have to own up to all of this because the other side of the question is: Why was Purisima giving advice?”
“General Napeñas cannot own all accountabilities in this failed mission and the deaths of these civilians, MILF, and PNP, if there was intervention from the top.”
He believes that Purisima should be accountable for intervening in the operation when the fact remains that he is under suspension because ‘giving advice’ would be tantamount to giving unlawful directives.
Going now to the higher chain of command, Dr. Torneo says that “the President is accountable, if he wrongfully authorized a suspended official to direct the operation.”
“If it turns out that the President is the one who directly ordered, he will have to take a certain level of responsibility. But up to what extent his accountability is? That is something that would have to be settled by the investigation.”
Dr. Torneo says that we can’t really blame the President for going after Marwan. “Bakit, mali ba that the President ordered the PNP to go after a high valued terrorist? I don’t think there’s any problem with that.” However, he argues that because of the President is also pursuing the peace process, things get a little more complicated.
“Many of the problems that came out appeared to be at the operational level. The coordination problem is at the operational level, and unless we can establish that the president himself was running the operation, the president cannot be accountable for the actual operational implementation.”
But Dr. Torneo adds that there is one condition wherein the president must take full responsibility, “and that is if the president directly allowed the suspended PNP chief to run the operations on his behalf.”
He explains that although the President does not need and permission from Roxas or anyone, and that chain of command is not strictly implemented in civilian organizations like the PNP, the President must still take full responsibility “because he skipped the line of authority.”
Imperfect peace still preferable
“I am for the peace process. There should be no question about the peace process. This war has killed more than 120 000 people. This has lasted for what, more or less, 45 years?” Dr. Torneo shares.
“This should be resolved. And sabi nga nila: Peace, even if imperfect, is preferable than war,” he adds.
Dr. Torneo digs deeper in the issue by saying that perhaps the more controversial question is whether the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the solution to the conflict. “There are elements of the BBL that are being contested, challenged, for its constitutionality or for its potential consequences,” shares the professor.
Whether the BBL is the remedy to this predicament or not, Dr. Torneo stresses that those who demand an all-out war do not realize that for the past four and a half decades, we have resorted to violence and we are still in the same situation.
“We’ve spent billions, thrown thousands of lives, and it is clear that neither one of the two groups can win this war. Decisively, we can only prolong it, but nobody wins. At the end, both sides lose,” explains Dr. Torneo, concluding that an all-out war is out of the question.
Peace process still worth pursuing
Since the incident in Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Basic Law continues to receive criticism from the rest of the archipelago. Among the reasons of those who oppose the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the incapability of the MILF to control its people.
When asked about this issue, Dr. Torneo presents an analogy, “…now it seems that even the government cannot control its own troops. Hindi nga mag-coordinate ng maayos [ang] AFP at PNP. Nagsisisihan pa sila ngayon. How much more do you expect this ragtag army?”
Dr. Torneo maintains that the peace process is still worth pursuing because MILF is still the largest armed group in the area, with fighters ranging from 12,000 to 14,000. “They’re still the largest group with the largest clout, so any kind of peace we can establish with them, you know, is still worth pursuing,” he says.
“If we can make peace with the largest group, we have one less problem to deal with, and that’s a large problem to deal with. Now we just have to deal with the smaller groups, like the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf,” he adds.
Dr. Torneo also believes in the MILF’s sincerity and commitment to pursue peace in the conflict-ravaged Philippine soil. “If they were not sincere, they will not show up in the senate hearing to be insulted and to be treated badly by our honorable senators. If they were not sincere, they will not be talking to us. If they were not sincere, they will not be returning these guns to us. If they were not sincere, they will not be apologizing to us, despite the fact that they also lost people there. If they were not sincere, they would not have dropped their pursuit of independence and compromised for autonomy.
“Their willingness to compromise is already a sign of sincerity. They’ve been at this peace process for the last seven years. I mean, if that’s not sincere, I don’t know what’s sincere,” he expounds.
Dr. Torneo, along with other Political Science professors who were interviewed, maintains that until the facts are complete, the question of whether it’s a misencounter or massacre should remain unanswered.
“When you enter an area, as an outsider, it’s a free for all. That’s the meaning of pintakasi. In Mindanao, there are more guns than people, and many of these people have grievances against the government, government authorities. Many of them lost family and kin in this war. Some of them their fathers and grandfathers, some of them lost their farms, burned their villages during periods of all-out wars since the time of Marcos. They have a lot of pent-up rage.
“And any military officer who has been assigned to Mindanao can tell you that once na pumasok na sila sa isang village and nobody is actually in charge and in control… violence, armed conflict could flare up and they could be fighting against anyone, any group, and it could be a free for all.”
He notes that the farmers who have returned SAF arms are no simple farmers. “Some of them are heavily-armed farmers.”
“The death of the SAF could be attributed to any one of the armed groups operating the area. The AFF, which has no indication that it’s interested in any peace talk; Abu Sayyaf, who’s, again, not interested in any peace talk … and any one of this group, the MILF, or the relatives of the MILF members that the SAF members killed in the course of running the operation.
“That’s a lot of people, and every one of them is armed. And anybody of them will have the motive to kill the SAF officers trapped in the area, now that they were out of bullets and defenseless, diba?”
The professor maintains that the victims were clearly murdered. He believes, though, that until we can establish the facts, we can’t make certain of who did it.
This is the third of three articles wherein we ask faculty from DLSU’s Political Science Department for their take on the Mamasapano Clash. This is an issue that is currently unfolding, and each day more information comes to light. Because the professors in this article were interviewed at different points in time since the clash, the opinions expressed here may not necessarily reflect the interviewees present views on the issue.
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