GENERAL SANTOS CITY, September 18, 2015 – Last September 8, President Aquino, at the exclusive “Meet Inquirer Multimedia Forum” with the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editors and staff, disclosed there had been no closure to the Mamasapano debacle — that the National Bureau of Investigation is probing an “alternative truth” to the clash.
He expressed his personal concern: “I still have a lot of questions. There is an alternate version of events that happened there. Certain quarters raised certain points that led to the alternate version. There is no conclusion at this point.”
He declined giving details (PDI, September 8: “Aquino on Mamasapano: No conclusion at this point”; and, 9: “New Mamasapano lead eyed; Aquino: Alternative truth emerges; probe continuing”). However, he said that the photo of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” showing him dead in his hut that came out in the Inquirer on Jan. 30 “posed many questions and that is what we want to resolve.” (bold italics ours)
That was the cue to the “alternative truth” and it ignited a “word war” the media are too willing to give prime time and space.
MILF’s peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal: There is no alternative truth. The truth is in the MILF’s Special Investigative Commission Report. Marwan was already dead – killed by his aides — when the SAF commandoes arrived.
PNP-SAF, with former Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) Director Getulio Napeñas talking to media: The truth is in the PNP Board of Inquiry Report. The SAF commandoes surprised Marwan and killed him when he resisted. He challenged Iqbal to prove his claim – accusing him together with certain military sources of discrediting the truth and insulting the 44 SAF commandoes killed in the debacle.
It doesn’t help that President Aquino has declined giving details while at the same time titillating reporters and the reading and listening public to speculate the more. To whet more appetite for speculation, the President says he does not mean the “alternative truth” is the ultimate truth; on the contrary, it can be false (philstar.com, September 14, 2015: PNoy: Mamasapano ‘alternative version’ may not be the truth; also, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 15, 2015: Aquino backtracks from ‘alternative truth’ stand).
Neither does it help that INQUIRER.net (September 17, 2015:Aquino puts an end to ‘baseless’ Mamasapano speculation) reported that during a briefing at Malacañang “President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday showed photos of slain international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, to put an end to rumors that the Special Action Force (SAF) did not kill him” – calling the “speculations” as “baseless”.
In Pilipino (Tagalog), he said the pictures are clear. It is impossible to doubt that it was the SAF commandos who cut Marwan’s fingers. All other reports concerning the so-called “alternative narrative (truth)” are baseless.
In trying to “put an end to speculations”, he confirmed that the “alternative truth” the NBI is probing is about “Marwan’s death”. Even if he did not say it, it must follow that the NBI probe would be stopped. Will that stop or will it deepen the speculations?
The questions remain and more intriguing: Who killed Marwan? How was he killed? These are the very questions the quest for what President Aquino calls “alternative truth” has resurrected. The investigation reports of the PNP and MILF and the Senate and House hearings have the answers.
What are the direct facts on the killing of Marwan?
First, a picture shows Marwan dead with SAF commandos present. This has been published by media and included in investigation reports. Presented by the President in his news briefing at the Palace on September 17 were three pictures in series showing the commandos cutting one of Marwan’s left finger.
Second, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has confirmed through DNA test that the person killed was, indeed, Marwan.
The truth is clear and simple: Marwan is dead. There is no alternative to that.
But the controversy is not about whether Marwan is dead or not; it is whether the SAF commandos really killed him. The SAF did, so says the PNP Board of Inquiry Report. No, it was Marwan’s aides who did, so says the MILF in its Special Investigation Commission Report and certain military sources to the media. They both refer also to the pictures of the dead Marwan.
Even before President Aquino revealed last September 8 the ongoing NBI probe, these conflicting reports had presented “alternative truths” for readers to pick to believe or not — complicating the simple truth that Marwan is dead. And circumstantial facts further complicated the simple.
Pictures of commandos cutting dead Marwan’s finger, per se, does not prove he was killed by the commandos. Media was told, so says the PNP Report, Marwan was killed when he fought it out. The finger-cutting picture is just a consequence to his killing.
The MILF used the same pictures to prove the SAF commandos did not kill Marwan, focusing on his wounds indicating that Marwan had been shot at close range and that he could not have been killed while fighting it out. Yet, this does not directly belie the SAF claim raising the challenge, “Who then killed Marwan”.
To boost its version, the MILF cited some circumstantial facts. There are more such circumstantial facts that complicated not only the simple truth that Marwan is dead but also truth about the entire Mamasapano police operation.
The simple truth that Marwan is dead should have been allowed to put closure to the most unfortunate Mamamasapano debacle. Such is for the best interest of the country without any alternative.
But the controversial question “Who killed Marwan” would not let peace reign nor allow Marwan to rest in peace. The President himself, instead of keeping his peace, resurrected the controversy last September 8. Will his September 17 press briefing in Malacañang to end the speculations on the “alternative truth” close the Pandora’s box he has opened?
The paradox is: This controversial question can be closed only by admitting that the conflicting facts in media and investigation reports will not close the controversy. And the inevitable: Complicating the simple will lead to more controversies. This is most regrettable. We will comment on this next time.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]