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Senator Poe’s finest hour

In record time, the Senate Committee on Peace and Order and Dangerous Drugs under the chairmanship of Sen. Grace Poe released the findings of its investigation on the Mamasapano tragedy that resulted in the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.

In so doing, Senator Poe gave us a sense of her calm and steady political maturity and temperament that presents a refreshing departure from the President Aquino-style of juvenile pestilence that has plagued the national leadership for the past five years.

Poe urged the President to own up to responsibility for Operation Plan Exodus targeting Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and two other terrorists. “He is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the Mamasapano mission,” she said, adding that P-Noy knew about it from the planning stage to its execution.

The scathing indictment on the presidency is unexpected considering that Senator Poe is a known administration ally. She would not have made it to the Senate had Aquino not included her in the administration slate in the 2013 elections.

Prior to that, she was personally handpicked by Aquino to head the Movie, Television and Radio Classification Board (MTRCB) where she earned her chops as a capable manager and administrator.

We took note of Senator Poe’s objective handling of the proceedings during the hearings. And now that her committee has released its report, we are convinced all the more of her independence considering that the committee report pinned down the President’s culpability in the Mamasapano tragedy.

To me, this is the most important gist of the Senate report. No matter how Palace propagandists try to downplay or insulate President Aquino, he is ultimately responsible for the botched police operation as the leader of the nation. To put it more succinctly, “the buck stops with the President.”

Here are the salient points of the Senate findings:

1.Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other armed groups murdered and robbed the PNP-SAF commandos.

2.Police-Director General Alan Purisima usurped authority and official functions.

  1. Police Director Getulio Napeñas committed grave misconduct.

4.The President must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by Police Director-General Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus.

5.The President failed to exercise leadership. The Mamasapano incident raises serious questions about whether the President, as well as some other high-ranking officials of the government, could have done more to minimize deaths.

6.There are indications that the planning and the execution of Oplan Exodus were not a 100-percent Filipino-planned and implemented.

7.Should the Armed Forces of the Philippines have fired the white phosphorus or artillery rounds much earlier? Did the strategy to promote the peace process hinder the AFP from engaging in a more aggressive response?

  1. The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process should pursue the peace process with justice.

The findings of Poe’s committee were released in just a month. This could be one of the fastest reports ever produced by the Senate. We have seen past investigations—on jueteng, the fertilizer scam, military corruption and so on—that either fizzled out or did not produce anything concrete.

Poe’s committee report did not differ much from the report of the PNP Board of Inquiry under Police Director Benjamin Magalong.  Many say both reports are fair. But we believe the Senate report is more solid because it includes a direct indictment of the MILF for their sins of omission and commission relating to the Mamasapano carnage.

We seldom do this but we commend both General Magalong and Senator Poe for their fair and accurate reports. It is a breath of fresh air to see non-partisan public officials just doing their jobs and not thinking about their political future.

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