FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
“The evil that men do lives after them, the good often interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar,” – Marc Antony on the death of Julius Caesar.
Now that the emotions and grief over on the death of Benigno S. Aquino III have subsided, perhaps it is time to reexamine the actions and decisions that he had made during his presidency.
There is no doubt that Noynoy, as he would like people to call him, was a man of high moral standards: honest, competent, straight-forward and most of all, incorruptible.
During his administration, there was no scandal in government that involved him simply because he was wealthy in his own right and he had no family for which future he has to secure financially. He was to the manor born and heir to the immense wealth of the Aquino-Cojuangco family in Tarlac.
But like everyone else, Noynoy had his flaws or lapses in judgment that would tarnish his otherwise unblemished record in public service, first as congressman, then senator and eventually as president.
Aquino’s albatross is the Mamasapano incident that cost the lives of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police.
On Jan. 25, 2015 an SAF contingent was ordered to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, alyas Marwan, the notorious Malaysian terrorist and bomb maker, who was hiding in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that happened to be an enclave controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Now that Aquino is dead, we may never know what really happened that led to the massacre. But the fact is that the SAF contingent was encircled by MILF combatants and the commander, Getulio Napenas, radioed or texted for reinforcement that reached Aquino who was at that time in Zamboanga City along with then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
There were reports that Aquino deliberately withheld sending military reinforcement to the beleaguered SAF team because this would imperil the ongoing peace negotiations with the separatist group.
But Aquino vehemently denied this accusation and firmly placed the blame on Napenas who, he said did not coordinate with the military before the start of the operation. Since it happened during his watch, Aquino must take full responsibility of what happened.
Aquino’s insensitivity at that time was shown in his failure to meet the coffins of the 44 SAF members when they arrived at Villamor Air Base. He opted instead to attend the inauguration of a car plant in Laguna.
Another flaw in Aquino’s persona was his relentless and almost manic hatred of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Aquino was one of Arroyo’s students in economics at the Ateneo de Manila University but during his whole presidency he never mentioned that.
The root of his ire against Arroyo was her appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court at the end of her term. Immediately when he became president, Aquino marshaled his allies in Congress to have Corona impeached. Aquino also filed tramped-up charges of corruption against Arroyo through his sub-altern, former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Arroyo was held incommunicado under hospital arrest for five years.
When Aquino was out of office, all the charges against Arroyo were dismissed by the supreme court. And De Lima, Arroyo’s tormentor, is now incarcerated in Camp Crame for drug charges. Is this karma or just an irony of fate?