Mamasapano tragedy underscores imperative of peace – Deles

By on January 25, 2016

The fallen PNP SAF were accorded arrival honors, led by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, PNP Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office)
The fallen PNP SAF were accorded arrival honors, led by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas, PNP Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office)

MANILA—A year after the Mamasapano incident that claimed 67 Filipino lives including that of an eight-year-old child, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles stressed anew that the unfortunate event only served to strengthen the agency’s resolve to continue pushing for peace in Mindanao.

“The unfortunate incident in Mamasapano, which plunged the Filipino nation in deep grief, showed the fragility of the path to peace. The forcible deconstruction triggered by the tragedy compels us to a reconstruction, a recovery, a rethinking that must go deep and far and wide if we are to do justice to the truth and the pursuit of peace,” Deles said.

“The bloodbath at Mamasapano does not debunk the imperative of peace. On the contrary, Mamasapano tells us – and may I paraphrase the poet E.E. Cummings here – that, of peace, we must be more careful than of anything else. It is a beacon but it is also a fragile flower. It lives in the hearts of men and women but, stunted, it can also turn toxic.”

“They say that peace is not an easy path, sometimes it’s like walking a tightrope. But there is no alternative to peace. War cannot end war. Religious officials, civil society leaders, business persons, academicians who live and work in Mindanao have spoken out,” she said. “They know how destructive war is, and how fragile peace is. That is why, to a person, they have issued calls for peace very early on when thick haze still hung over Mamasapano.”

She added that the tragedy brought out many Filipinos’ long-stemmed antipathy and discrimination towards the Filipino-Muslim community. “We must unlearn this dualism so we can move beyond our superficial analyses to a more discerning view of the peace process and our stakes in it.”

Peace process demonized

At the height of the controversy, the peace adviser remembered how the peace process got badly demonized by critics in mainstream and social media, mostly due to political dynamics and agenda that sought to undermine the Aquino administration at a time that they saw it to be most vulnerable.

“Many have already pointed out in public that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) became a casualty of the Mamasapano incident as were those who perished. It became a subject of such intense negative propaganda that those who worked so hard to bring the peace process at the height of its success became the devil in the eyes of the angry public. Most of us, if not all, were called to resign, and by those who would not have experienced the armed conflicts first hand. They have criticized the mechanisms without knowing the history behind its implementation.” recalled Deles.

She said she found it oddly strange that those who spoke for peace were so viciously assailed by the people.

Alleged advice to PNoy never happened

Recently, news reports in mainstream and social media surfaced again alleging that Secretary Deles advised President Benigno S. Aquino III to not send back-up troops to aid the members of the Philippine National Police–Special Action Force (SAF) at the height of the Mamasapano encounter.

“That is such a lie, a malicious lie, which was a product of an imaginative mind that served to portray the peace process as the villain. As I have said before, the most vociferous voices call for a stop to the BBL hearings, call for a revamp of the peace infrastructure in midstream. Perhaps the most charitable thing to say is that they do not know whereof they speak.”

In a press statement released last year, OPAPP clarified that no such advice to the President was sought nor given by Secretary Deles who was never a part of any stage of the Marwan operations, nor any other security enforcement operations.

Not even a suggestion of a “whitewash” – Marcos on illegal audio

Another issue that confronted the peace adviser due to the Mamasapano incident was the release on social media of an audio recording with a controversial and fake title — “Bbm And Deles.m4a: Audio recording on Mamasapano “whitewash.”

Deles said that with the incident’s anniversary, they have seen the resurgence these days of old lies and propaganda that were thrown at them, including the illegally recorded audio of her meeting with Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

“They are even packaged as new information, instead of the old lies that they were,” she said.

“People who wanted again to hit the administration through the peace process, released and shared under false headline the recording of my meeting with Senator Marcos, making it appear that the conversation was about a whitewash and a cover-up instead of an innocent conversation about the incident in which it was clear that we were both trying to make sense of what happened, given the details available at that time, and concluded with an agreement to wait for more information,” Deles said.

“I have said this before and I will say this again, those allegations of whitewash and cover-ups are false. It was a disservice then, as it is a disservice now to our people to mislead, confuse and lie to them.”

OPAPP on February 14, 2015 came out with a media release that assailed the malicious misinformation being spread on social media alleging that she talked to a legislator mentioning an intent to “whitewash” the tragic events that unfolded in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, with details of the meeting being referred in the audio, and recalled meeting with two senators the day after the Mamasapano incident. One was with Senator Marcos and the other with Senate President Franklin Drilon.

“I never adverted to anything about a plan to ‘make the incident disappear’ or for a ‘whitewash. This issue was proven to be false and mere political gimmick when it came out such that the legislative committees conducting hearings on the Mamasapano incident in aid of legislation at that time no longer included it in their investigations. The full illegal recording was out there in social media uploaded by an anonymous person, and people who listened to it confirmed that they could not find any reference to a whitewash or cover-up, unless it was tampered and spliced.” Deles clarified.

Deles’ claim was further affirmed when in a separate statement issued February 15, 2015, Marcos debunked allegations of “whitewash” on the Mamasapano investigation.

“The claim doing the rounds in social media that OPAPP Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles saw me in my office on January 26, the day after the Mamasapano incident, to “whitewash” the investigation is definitely not true. There could not even be any suggestion of a “whitewash” because there was no investigation yet at that time.”

Atty. Jomer Aquino, a legal consultant of OPAPP, recalled that the digital recording became the subject of a legal consultation last year. The matter was also reported to the NBI. According to him, the said audio actually breaks the illegal wiretapping law of Republic Act No. 4200. Anyone who recorded the audio without expressed permission from those identified in it can be prosecuted for violation of the said law.” said Aquino. He also said that he who possesses and distributes the said audio may also be prosecuted for violation of Ant-Wire Tapping Act. He said that they will discuss again the possibility of pursuing legal action if it becomes an issue again.

Commemoration should focus on seeking justice

Deles maintained that the commemoration of the Mamasapano tragedy should focus solely in seeking justice for the deaths of the elite cops, Moro combatants and innocent civilians instead of politicking the ill-fated incident for personal motives.

“In remembering Mamasapano we are making a fervent prayer – for justice for those who perished and negatively affected by the tragedy, for healing and peace for the families and communities, and of the nation, and clarity of mind and wisdom for fellow Filipinos that they may always see and discern the truth from deception – for our country and the just and lasting peace it deserves,” Deles concluded.