More lessons to learn in the Mamasapano tragedy:
- leadership is crucial, especially during perilous times
- chain of command should not be taken willy-nilly
- communications is vital
- it is easier to tell the truth
Leadership is akin to that of a driver on the steering wheel. When negotiating a difficult terrain, the driver must be all-out in focus. But during the most critical hours of the mission, there obviously was an absence of leadership, just separate points of authority which could not move in unison for lack of a coordinating, guiding force. The absence of leadership was most obvious: ask the question Who was in charge?
Chain of command, or whatever term it is called, should be taken seriously, never lightly, more so in a military operation as complicated and dangerous. A miscue or a fault on the chain especially one coming from the top is bound to set off a train of complications and confusions cascading down the line resulting in a major disarray. It is called command breakdown.
During the hearings, I was hoping someone would ask (or did i miss it?): are cellphones now the primary means of communications in such missions? And why text not voice call? On social media young netizens are perplexed and amused that urgent messages were being sent through text instead of calls. In any case, communications is very crucial in coordinating disparate forces and gleaning from bits and pieces of info from the hearings and the news, apparently bad communications contributed in the collapse of command leading to the death of the SAF 44.
Lastly, well, we all lie for one reason or another. But, truly honesty is the best policy.
This is Inquirer’s editorial today. I describe it as comically inane. And it needs no explaining why. If anything, it illustrates just how the quality of anti-Marcos rhetoric has degenerated over the years. It’s striking how the anti-Marcos forces are yet left puzzling over why they are losing their grip on the younger generation to a supposed well-funded Marcos’ propaganda machine.
In the turbulence that has overtaken the Aquino administration over the disastrous end to the police initiative to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, the voice of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the dictator’s only son, seems to be a font of reason. We say seem, because appearances can be misleading.
Unlike Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s comically abrupt turnabout on the peace process, obviously a knee-jerk reaction to the Mamasapano bloodbath which led to the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers (as well as at least 14 Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and four civilians), the younger Marcos has only sharpened his rhetoric, while maintaining a basic position of support for the peace process.
For instance, last Friday he said the following on nationwide TV: “If BBL [the Bangsamoro Basic Law] is crucial to that peace [in Mindanao], then by all means we pass it but let us make sure to avoid bloody encounters or armed warfare in Muslim Mindanao by involving all groups and sectors together for that peace.” Sounds commonsensical enough, a rarity in emotionally charged times.
But he has also said things like the following, on Twitter: “Ang mangyayari ayon sa BBL ay ang mga MILF fighter na pumatay sa ating pulis ay magiging pulis!” A simple translation: “What will happen, according to the BBL, is that the MILF fighters who killed our policemen will become policemen themselves.” This is a horrifying prospect, if true. But in fact this is not necessarily true, unless one assumes, as Marcos does, that all MILF rebels are to become policemen (an impossibility), and that there is no mechanism to identify the rebels who took part in the Mamasapano encounter and bring them to justice.
It is also illogical: He commits the fallacy of amphiboly, hiding behind the vagueness of his terms. Yes, the BBL sees a future where the Bangsamoro will have its own police. Many of those policemen might be MILF rebels who will be integrated into the national police. Therefore, in Marcos’ view, the killers of the SAF will become policemen themselves. There are gaps in this “reasoning” process wide enough to ram his family’s ill-gotten wealth through.
Having conducted hearings on the BBL, he should at least know that there is in fact an inspiring precedent for integration: Since 1995, over 7,000 former Moro National Liberation Front rebels have been successfully integrated into the Armed Forces and the police.
So: By Twitter ye shall really know them.
On Twitter, the younger Marcos has sought to paint a picture of incompetence in the Aquino administration. (That the administration can be incompetent, as was the case with the Luneta hostage-taking incident in 2010 and as seems to be the case with the Mamasapano debacle, makes Marcos look prescient.)
But he cannot resist from trying to score political points. On Feb. 5, for instance, he tweeted: “I spent some time in the military. I know all of these records are sitting on file. I’m sure in the highest levels of the chain of command.”
The next day, an expansive Marcos tweeted something on the military again: “I remember as President, my father was knowledgeable about every military operation. The President would know about an operation this big.”
These are rightly read as criticism of President Aquino’s handling of the operation that sought to capture Marwan, especially the inescapable reality that the chain of command was not followed. But in his zeal, the younger Marcos made a simple but sweeping mistake. For the first time in recent memory, a member of the immediate
Marcos family has admitted that the dictator in fact exercised complete control.
Why is this important? Because in trial after trial, in interview after interview, none of the Marcos family members ever made a similar admission. Even in the infamous racketeering case in New York City which tried Imelda Marcos, with copious documentation of widespread corruption during the dictatorship, the former first lady’s defense was simple: She didn’t know what her late husband had done.
The younger Marcos’ words, then, represent the first time any of his family has publicly admitted that the dictator was “knowledgeable about every military operation.” The thousands of human rights cases confirmed as perpetrated by the Marcos military can now be laid squarely, resolutely, at the dictator’s feet.
In contrast to a rather somber atmosphere of the occasion, the President seems to be in a light mood. Or was he smiling at someone?
Picture taken during the necrological services for the fallen SAF members in the Mamasapano massacre.
Image grabbed from GetRealPost, modified
First of all, my salute to the 44 PAF commandos. Farewell, guys! Of your heroic death, every great soul would be envious. Would I prefer death due to disease or old age over a glorious end?
Success has many fathers, they say; failure is always an orphan. Indeed. Were it a successful operation, everyone would be pushing and falling over each other claiming credit. It’s me, I did it! Not you! But because a tragic failure it was, it’s finger pointing galore. No, not me. Not my fault. It’s him, it’s them! Human nature?
In crisis, they say, a man reveals himself. Indeed. Take that officer who courageously owned up to it forthwith: I take full responsibility, he declares. In my book, that’s the mark of a true, brave leader. Ready to fall for his failings if he failed. By contrast, the cowardly kind always evades and hides at the first hint of trouble, yet quick to grab credit otherwise.
By their extravagant words and fancy acts, by their strange omissions and additions, the cowards and pretenders give themselves away. By contrast, the brave ones shine by their silence and equanimity. They seek not the attention and accolade, as by their knowing alone they are sufficiently gladdened.
I hope the peaceniks would shut up if only for awhile. Everyone wants peace, who does not? But forty four of your own people has just been massacred, for God’s sake, and there you are almost on your knees pleading for peace, with neither a condemnation nor a call for accountability! It is simply pathetic, almost bizarre. It is like saying, kill a thousand more of our men, we will never tire of begging for peace. The MILFs and BIFFs must be amused if somewhat perplexed.
A lesson in negotiation: never negotiate from a position of weakness.
Yet, we are flaunting like a badge of honor our weakness: we do not have the guts for violence! we will do everything to avoid war! All that orating about the virtues of peace and the evils of war is wonderful indeed but the other side is reading it as a sign of weakness: you fools do not have the stomach for war, we own you! No wonder the MILF are exploiting it to the limit— by daring us to a war if they do not get what they want. Just a few days after the massacre, instead of showing some signs of remorse, the leader was quoted as saying it will be worse if the ongoing peace talks is ever affected. That sounded more like a threat. What gall! By our constant pleadings for peace, we make ourselves look a weakling, thus we command neither fear nor respect. Just contempt.
Come visit my new art blog. I will be spending more time with it for some time, well, until the writing bug comes back again.
Philippine Technocracy and the Politics of Economic Decision Making during the Martial Law Period by Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, University of the Philippines Diliman
The trouble with these re-invigorated efforts to extol those so-called freedom fighters of old who fought the Marcos Dictatorship is— it seems that all of them were Communists, or somehow linked with the Communists! I wonder why.
The inevitable question thus comes: were they fighters against dictatorship and for the cause of freedom— or fighters for the cause of communism? Which is which?: Communism never equated with freedom.
If unwittingly, it does seem instead to validate Marcos’ claim then that his government was waging a war against armed communists whose ultimate goal was to seize control of government, the reason why he declared Martial law, assumed dictatorial powers and extended his term by default.
Of course the anti-Marcos forces would have none of that: pooh, it was all about his barbaric nature, his greed for power and wealth, period!
So, okay, will UP come next with Professor Joma Sison? See, the man endured more than Jopson ever did and far longer.
But it helps pondering about: what if the Marcos government went more softly on them instead? Rather than drive them into the mountains to be fighting with the underground movement, what if the government did not fight, just let them Communists rove about and allowed them free rein? I reckon, with its armed component, the NPA, along with the support of the media, and of popular politicians like Ninoy Aquino, academic scholars and intellectuals, plus the masses behind them, they could very well have prevailed easily. Now, imagine Edjop and his communist comrades marching into Malacañang Palace as victors, to the jubilant cheering of the people.
I wonder if we would not have ended up as another Cambodia or Vietnam– just another vast, gruesome Killing Fields.