How some Filipinos became a Jerusalem mob
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-10-17
ABC-5 JOURNO host, Luchi Cruz-Valdes, taped an episode of her show last Wednesday with your Chair Wrecker as her featured guest. The discussion focused on our October 7 column which was an assessment of the first 100 days of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy). The episode we taped will air on ABC-5 this Tuesday, October 19 at 10 p.m.

Not wishing to preempt Luchi’s show and the lively exchange of views we had, allow me to focus on just one aspect of the discussion – my considered opinion that the negative reactions to the Palace Review of the Manila Hostage Crisis Report were greatly unfounded and reeked of the lust for blood of the Jerusalem mob that crucified Jesus Christ.

Ever since the bloody August 23 Manila Hostage Crisis happened, emotion appeared to dominate reason whenever the topic was discussed. The bungling of the hostage rescue outraged and embarrassed Filipinos as these were seen live on local and world television. Emotions were further fueled by the overbearing and arrogant actuations of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region head, Donald Tsang. Even P-Noy admitted feeling insulted by a letter sent by the Hong Kong administrator.

Most of the negative reactions to the Palace Review of the Manila Hostage Crisis Report which was submitted by the IIRC (Incident Investigation and Review Committee) revolved around the following issues:

1. Questions on why the Office of the President (OP) had to review and modify the IIRC Report. Administration critics and political adversaries injected the spin that this was P-Noy’s way of protecting his friends and close allies.

2. Questions on why no criminal charges were recommended for those who have been identified as responsible for the bungled rescue attempt.

3. Questions on why Undersecretary (Usec) Rico E. Puno was not fired and why former PNP (Philippine National Police) Chief Jesus Verzosa was not held accountable.

Lost in the welter of all the emotions, mistaken notions, fallacious thinking and misinformation being peddled by administration critics are the following facts that will clarify and dismiss the three issues.
On the power of the OP to review and modify the IIRC Report

This is really a non-issue because of a very basic reason. That is the fact that the IIRC is a creation of the President and it follows that the President reserves the right and enjoys the prerogative to review and modify its report.

If the Regional Trial Court decisions are subject to review and reversal by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, then why should it be taken against the President if he imposes a similar procedure with an investigating body that he formed?

To begin with, there were several conditions that governed the investigation process which would make an Office of the President careful review a wise protective measure. These conditions were:

1. The investigation was conducted under severe time and public pressure. The IIRC was working on a deadline, quite unlike a regular trial where more time is allowed for the process. All Filipino and Chinese eyes were on the IIRC as it tried to meet its deadline.

2. There were valid points raised as to why Secretary Jesse Robredo, a controversial figure in the Manila Hostage Crisis, was allowed to sit in the IIRC. Critics feared that Sec. Robredo could influence the investigation to protect his flank and implicate another person instead.

3. The investigation lacked the features of a trial court where those being investigated were allowed the benefit of legal counsel who could argue against the bias in some of the questions that were raised or clarify certain expressed observations by the IIRC members.

4. A great deal of the pressure on the shoulders of the IIRC members came from the expectations of the Hong Kong administration. It is only human for the IIRC members to feel pressured to come up with findings that would please the Hong Kong administrators. However, satisfying Hong Kong expectations does not necessarily equate to our justice standards. In the justice system of China, they shoot criminals at the back of the head. Here, we do not even allow the death penalty anymore.

On why no criminal charges were recommended for those responsible for the bungled rescue operation

The Presidential Legal Counsel ably explained and defended this decision. The criminal element can only be traced to the hostage taker and not those who bungled the hostage rescue. Only administrative charges and penalties can be justified for those responsible for the bungling of the hostage rescue. To do otherwise is to subscribe to the mentality of the Jerusalem mob that freed a criminal and crucified the Son of God.

Again, lost in the welter of the emotions and mistaken notions is the fact that none of these people who have been tagged as responsible for the bungled rescue erred willfully or maliciously.

On why Jesus Verzosa and Rico Puno were not held accountable

In the case of former PNP Chief Verzosa, the PNP manual cleared him of accountability. The crisis was never elevated to the national level which would then require his hands on involvement. The officers on the ground were more than qualified to handle the considered local incident.

In the case of Usec Puno, totally overlooked is the fact that he reports to the President and the President knows best whether Puno erred during the hostage crisis. Puno is being pilloried for job descriptions being imposed by administration critics and not the job the President assigned him.

One of the most idiotic issues that emerged during the investigation was that Puno did not have the training to supervise a hostage crisis management. Wolves and sharks immediately used that to try to put Puno’s head on the chopping block.

Hey! Hello…did it ever occur to you that Undersecretaries of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) have never been selected and subsequently appointed on the basis of their having undergone hostage crisis management training? So what’s the big deal?

If Rico E. Puno deserves to be fired by P-Noy, it is for the way he opens his mouth — like his uncalled for and embarrassing recent revelations on how close he is to P-Noy and his evasive answers during the Senate illegal numbers game hearings.

If we must penalize people, let’s do so for all the right reasons. Otherwise, we will be no better than the Jerusalem mob.

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  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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