Aquino unfazed by widespread outrage, says spokesman

Aquino unfazed by widespread outrage, says spokesman

This was how Malacañang described Aquino’s attitude following the backlash he received after the Mamasapano massacre—from the ties that bind him with suspended Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima and his supposed lack of empathy for the families of the slain commandos.

Aquino is facing perhaps his worst public criticism, surpassing even the attacks he received for backing the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and protecting his allies implicated in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

“(The President) said in his speech on Friday that as the father of the nation, he could not let his anger or emotion get the better of him because we have to know the whole truth, since this will pave the road to justice,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

Public dismayed

It took Aquino four days after the Mamasapano bloodbath to address the nation and when he did, he spent most of his time explaining why the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos had to take down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan”. He did not delve much on why the elite force suffered heavy losses during the operation.

The public was further dismayed when he admitted he had been consulting with the suspended Purisima on the “intricacies” of the operation against Marwan.

Purisima had planned the operation before he was suspended by the Sandiganbayan on graft charges.

But what triggered widespread anger against the President was his decision to skip the arrival honours for the slain SAF men at Villamor Air Base and instead attend the opening of a car manufacturing plant.

Private grieving

Sources told the Inquirer that Aquino decided not to go to Villamor Air Base on that day because he wanted to give the slain SAF’s families time to grieve privately.

He more than made up for his absence the following day at the wake of the Fallen 44 held in Taguig City when he spent about 30 minutes with every family from noontime to shortly after midnight.

There were rumours that disgruntled security forces and politicians linked to corruption allegations were banding together to overthrow Aquino, who has less than two years remaining of his term.

“At this time, it’s best not to fall for the stories filled with intrigues that are being peddled and without concrete basis because that doesn’t help the country,” Coloma said.

Coloma said the President continues to do his job and was allowing all the investigation into the Maguindanao massacre to take place.

“If the President would speak now, there might be people who’d say he is exerting undue influence on those who will give their testimonies,” Coloma said. “Let’s wait for the complete narration of facts and at the right time, he will express his position on these matters.”

‘He should step down’

In Zamboanga City, the family of a police officer killed in the Maguindanao massacre said Aquino should consider stepping down if he could not protect and support his own people.

“He should step down if he cannot protect his soldiers and policemen or if he can’t stand by them,” said Ray-Anne Pabalinas, one of the sisters of slain Senior Insp. Ryan Pabalinas.

The officer was among the 44 SAF members killed in the clash with Moro rebels on January 25. He was the operations officer of the 55th Special Action Co. and among the seven officers killed in the encounter.

The other slain officers were Senior Insp. Max Jim Tria, Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi, Senior Insp. Cyrus Anniban, Senior Insp. Rennie Tayrus, Insp. Joey Gamutan and Insp. John Gary Erana.

‘Pain forever’

Ray-Anne said her family could no longer find any trace of sincerity in the president and that they wished he would resign.

Ray-Anne, a nurse by profession, told the Inquirer that her family in General Santos City and her brother’s wife, Erika, were still trying to put sense after the deaths of the SAF members.

“We can accept that they died in the line of service but we cannot understand why they had to be mutilated. It was an overkill and nobody’s coming forward to explain,” she said.

Ray-Anne said her brother’s body bore hack wounds aside from bullet wounds.

Erika said her family also wanted to find out why her husband and his colleagues were left alone to fight the battle.

“We demand justice and accountability,” she said, sounding highly emotional as she talked with the Inquirer.

“The pain is here,” Ray-Anne said, pointing to her heart, “and it will stay here forever. The anger may ease up if there’s justice.”

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