Partisan politics was all over the Senate “reinvestigation” of the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano incident in which 67 people—44 men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), at least 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, and six non-combatants—were killed.
The original Senate investigation into the incident was concluded last year with the release of a report that among others said that what happened at Mamasapano was “a massacre” and that President Benigno Aquino III broke the PNP chain of command by putting then suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima in charge of an operation to arrest or kill suspected terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, alias “Marwan.”
Although critical of President Benigno Aquino III, Senate minority leader—and former Marcos defense minister—Juan Ponce Enrile verbalized what the Aquino administration hasn’t been explicitly saying about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Speaking to the media a day after the Supreme Court ruling that EDCA is an executive agreement rather than a treaty and therefore did not need Senate approval, Enrile declared that the country needs EDCA because “we cannot protect our people since we don’t have credible defense forces.”
The Enrile argument in favor of EDCA echoed what had either been merely implied in the Aquino administration’s defense of it, or broadly hinted at by its other supporters: because the Philippine military cannot defend the Philippines, it’s up to the United States to do it. It’s an argument as hoary with age as EDCA’s latest advocate, having been first raised in 1946 by Manuel Roxas, and repeated ad nauseam by a succession of so-called Philippine leaders during the Cold War era.
As announced by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the official election season began last January 10 and will end on June 8 this year. It includes a campaign period starting February and ending in May; election day itself on May 9; the counting of the ballots; and the official proclamation of the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates and their inauguration.
Some cynical souls lament that the results of the triennial exercise—the election of the same scoundrels, incompetents, crooks and clowns and/or their clones—do not justify the 150 days allocated for it. But the unofficial period for campaigning for office is actually far longer, in many cases consisting of the entire three years between congressional and local government elections, and, for the presidential election, the six years during which the previously elected president sits in Malacañang.
A Senate “reinvestigation” of the Mamasapano incident to coincide with its first anniversary on January 25 this year has been proposed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who claims to have new information relevant to establishing what really happened.
But coming as it does on practically the eve of the May elections, the reinvestigation will be solely in furtherance of the political aims of the senators who’re running for either reelection or other posts this year. It is unlikely to yield different results, and would probably re-affirm the conclusion of the Senate committee on public order chaired by Senator (and presidential candidate) Grace Poe that the incident was, as popularly perceived, “a massacre.”