If he wasn’t able to find time to fully explain his administration’s side on the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano massacre, then former president Benigno Aquino III now has all the time in the world to do so in court.
In fact, it had been a long time coming for one of the widows of the fallen 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers, Dr. Christine Cempron, who hoped it would finally result in the conviction of Aquino and his Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.
The question of whether he would be convicted or not is up to the courts to decide. Cempron knows of this and has even voiced her hesitation that Aquino would eventually be acquitted of charges of usurpation of authority and graft in relation to the incident.
But former president Aquino — who remains unapologetic as he was when he first heard news about the botched raid to capture dead or alive Malaysian terrorist bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and compatriot Abdul Basit Usman — had been quite evasive about his role in the tragedy that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
More than two years had passed since the tragedy and one year since he left office; but Mr. Aquino had not felt obligated to explain why he did what he did, as well as why he didn’t do what he was supposed to do, which was to hold off the operation until there was a better chance to capture Marwan.
The closest he had to meeting with the families, Mr. Aquino took the opportunity to remind them of his own family’s sacrifices, telling them that they are now “even” insofar as sacrificing one’s loved ones to the altar of the country’s democracy is concerned.
That wasn’t the message the families of the slain SAF 44 troopers were hoping to get, and the fact that Mr. Aquino preferred to attend a wedding over personally receiving the remains of the fallen SAF 44 troopers as they were brought to a military base spoke volumes about what his administration thought about what was ultimately a preventable and unnecessary sacrifice of the troops.
If only for that incident alone, it would help explain why Aquino’s chosen successor Mar Roxas was soundly defeated by then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte in last year’s elections.
The prospect of another Mamasapano tragedy or the mishandling of the Yolanda devastation by Roxas is something voters couldn’t afford to stomach, and it’s not helping Mr. Aquino that he continues his silence over questions on why he allowed Purisima to take control of an operation he had no business with especially since he was suspended.
As President Duterte takes the podium anew for his second State of the Nation Address (Sona), the country will soon move past raising questions on whether the families will be served justice to whether Mr. Aquino will be made answerable to his neglect and apparent insensitivity in handling the tragedy.