Mamasapano: turning a disaster into an opportunity

President Noynoy Aquino

Re-investigating the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano incident, as President Rodrigo Duterte says he’s planning to do, would seem to be unnecessary at first. But that first impression soon yields to the need to address a number of questions in the public mind that until today remain unanswered.

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Media and power

Journalists covering an event (Lito Ocampo/CMFR)

The relationship between media and power — whether in the form of governments, business corporations, or institutions with large followings such as churches — has always been problematic.

The media are almost always the first targets of repression, whether in Indonesia during the 1965 coup and the decades that followed it; in Thailand in the present day where the military junta has taken down supposedly offensive posts in online news sites and blogs, and disallowed the holding of press forums — or in the Philippines, where, upon the declaration of martial law, the Marcos terror regime shut down newspapers and radio and TV stations, required all means of reproducing texts and photos to be registered, created a ministry of information from which all government issuances were to be sourced, seized control of the broadcast networks, and allowed only crony-owned newspapers to publish.

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Martial law by presidential default

Ferdinand Marcos declaring martial law on September 23, 1972 (Presidential Museum and Library)

The Philippine government marked the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law with the usual mantras about the need for everyone to see to it that “never again” will there be authoritarian rule in this country.

Speaking for President Benigno Aquino III, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, who was himself a political prisoner during the period, described martial rule—which Ferdinand Marcos imposed throughout the country in 1972 through Presidential Proclamation 1081—as “one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.”

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Feet of clay

President Noynoy Aquino and Senator Grace Poe (Photos from and

No matter what his apologists and he himself believes, like every other Philippine President Benigno Aquino III will be leaving Malacanang in 2016 with a trail of citizen disappointment behind him. But unlike in that of his predecessors, the disappointment will be worse in his case because of the high expectations that attended his taking office.

Not only did Aquino campaign for the highest post in this country armed with the attributes he inherited from his parents; he was also saying the right things. In keeping with Corazon and Benigno Aquino Jr.’s presumed allegiance to democratization as exemplified by their struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, Aquino III declared the protection of human rights and his commitment to transparency among his core programs.

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Aquino’s uncaring bureaucrats

Abaya takes oath as DOTC chief

Outraged Filipinos trapped in traffic, trying to make both ends meet, and appalled at the unremitting corruption in government, have been cursing the Aquino III bureaucracy, which teems with people who seem to have been chosen for their posts not only because of their closeness to their boss, but also for their capacity to make life even more difficult for the long suffering people of this country. In addition, they also demonstrate on an almost daily basis their common contempt for the poor and powerless. But by so doing these bureaucrats are actually doing everyone a favor.

For example, Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, a member of the ruling (as in a monarchy) Liberal Party, a three-term member of the House of Representatives, and currently Benigno Aquino III’s Secretary of Transportation and Communications, has unwittingly enlightened us on how badly some have been misled into thinking that government functionaries care about anything other than themselves and the perks of their office.

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