Mind da News: To See Is to Believe

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, February 27, 2015 – The fatal difference that went against the 44 PNP SAF commandos who perished in the Mamasapano mis-encounter last January 25 was the failure of the Philippine National Police to coordinate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces as specified in the GRP-MILF Ceasefire Agreement.

“To see is to believe” was the implied message MILF Commander Haramen to all who blame the MILF for the death of the commandos, when he told MindaNews Editor-in- Chief Carolyn O. Arguillase last Tuesday, “Tingnan nyo, basta may coordinate, wala talagang problema (See, if there’s coordination, there is really no problem)”.

Haramen, the commander of the 7th Brigade of the MILF 105th Base Command who engaged the SAF 55th Company in an eight-hour battle was interviewed on site in Sitio Aliling, Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Tuesday as he watched with his men from a distance the PNP Board of Inquiry team inspecting the cornfield where 35 of the 36 men of the SAF 55th perished. (MindaNews, February 25, 2015: MILF guerrillas watch from a distance as PNP Board of Inquiry visits encounter site)  

Arguillas wrote more in her report for her readers “to see” and “to believe” that the lack of coordination was the great fatal difference.

The cornfield was along the riverbank. Shortly before the BOI arrived, Hatamen and his men stayed about 250 away leaving the PNP security force in uniform and plainclothes alone to secure the investigation team. They formed the outer security line.

Earlier that morning, Haramen and his men all armed mingled with the PNP advanced security team near the river. Later, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrived and stood guard along the road at the other side of river. Both sides of the river are cultivated farms. There was no hostility between the MILF on one side and the police and the military on the other – no fear, no animosity.

Haramen’s men boiled bananas for the lunch of a group of policemen about a hundred meters away on a grassy plot by the trail. Without coordination, bullets could have been served for lunch, not boiled bananas. As Haramen “saw” it and “believed” it,“Basta may coordinate, wala talagang problema.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported (February 24, 2015: Video: 500 meters above the bloody fields of Mamasapano) that “dozens of members of the media” accompanied the BOI “operational audit team” that “inspected three major sites” of the Mamasapano bloody incident on Tuesday, February 24. “A drone from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, piloted by chief photographer Rem Zamora, flew up three times to record the view from 500 meters” of the sites where the 41st and 55th SAF companies were positioned. 1675

We Goggled reports on that BOI ocular inspection. We could not find any other report from PDI. Other than the MindaNews report, we found reports from philstar.com and Rappler.com and video from ABS-CBN News. There must be some other reports. We are wondering what the “dozens of members of the media” who PDI said accompanied the BOI inspection team had seen and reported.

The philstar.com report (February 24. 2015: Board of Inquiry visits Mamasapano clash site) by its Cotabato City Correspondent John Unson mentioned the “hundreds” of MILF “guerillas in combat gears” 200 meters away watching the BOI team inspecting the cornfield encounter site and the 200 Maguindanao and ARMM police providing security.

The philstar.com mentioned S/Supt. Noel Armilla, acting ARMM PNP director telling reporters of the proper coordination “with the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities” with the MILF being “made to understand that the activity is administrative in nature, not tactical.” Armilla’s statement was “loaded”.

The philstar.com also mentioned Armilla saying that while the Mamasapano local government officials were helpful, they objected to armed military men providing security. This implies that the Moros distrust the military.

The philstar.com further mentioned, BOI Chair Police Director Benjamin Magalong telling reporters of the main objectives of their mission, of their tentative impressions about the lapses in the execution of the operation plans, and of the mission as the last phase of their investigation on the incident to be finished within a month.

The philstar.com report is embellished with backgrounders rehashed repeatedly since last January 25 highlighting the heroism of the 44 SAF commandos, their slaying as massacre and the MILF as the treacherous attackers for the appreciation of the BOI mission.

Rappler.com (Febuary 24, 2015: Probers visit Mamasapano encounter site) reported that the BOI team “visited Mamasapano along with town mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan and local policemen”. As the BOI team and the local officials toured the encounter sites, the “residents flocked to see today’s visitors”. The team was gladly welcomed.

The report, short with scant backgrounders, named the PNP officials composing the BOI that visited Mamasapano and the composition of the BOI Audit Team. It also said that with the investigation “about 70% finished”, the BOI report will be submitted by the end of this month – incidentally mentioning the MILF as being ready to submit “its report to the government peace panel”.

philstar.com’s Unson and Rappler.com’s correspondent Bea Cupin must have been among the “dozens” reporters covering the mission. Evidently, the usual happened. After the inspection tour, the reporters interviewed the BOI team. Not bothering to contact the MILF nearby, they reported what they had seen and what the BOI team would like people “to see” and “to believe”.

MindaNews’ Arguillas did not join the “dozens” of reporters with the BOI team; neither, did she interview any of the team members. In her story on her she reported what she had seen and what Haramen had said with some backgrounders for her readers “to see” and “to believe” what have been kept out of government- and PNP-based reports in national newspapers, radios and televisions.

Should it be understood that what Armilla has told philstar.com and Rappler.com together with what their correspondents are all what the BOI wants to be reported to be seen and to be believed?

Arguillas assigned MindaNews reporter Froilan Gallardo to the BOI team, who has made two reports, PNP Board of Inquiry members visit clash site with survivor as guideon February 24 and MILF commander who stopped Mamasapano clash shuns interview with BOIon February 26.

In the first, with S/Supt. Armilla as the source, Gallardo reported, like Unson and Cupin, the BOI teams tour of the encounter scenes but mentioning details not in Unson’s and Cujpin’s reports — a survivor acting as guide, tracing the routes taken by the 41st, 42nd, and 45th SAF companies, and not visiting Marwan’s hut in Pidsandawan.

In the second, with BOI Chair C/Supt. Magalong as his source, Gallardo reported the Magalong’s disappointment when Commander Wahid Tundok of the MILF 118th Base Command, who was instrumental in having the clashes stopped, declined an interview despite the assurance from the MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar for political affairs that he would. To get the MILF side of the picture, Magalong had closed-door meeting with Jaafar. He said he would include the MILF investigation report in the BOI report.

The truth is: In many cases, media report only what of events or occasions they and their sources want people “to see” and “to believe”. But sometimes, circumstances beyond their control limit media and their sources in reporting what people can see and believe. By Gallardo’s report, the BOI wants to see the MILF side of the Mamasapano incident. Whether the PNP will release all the BOI findings for the people “to see” and “to believe” is a different story.

Still, “To see is to believe” is a deceptive proposition or paradigm. The truthfulness of what to believe depends on the veracity of what to see. If the whole truth is shown, what is believed is the whole truth. Otherwise, there is deception.

Haramen, as reported by MindaNews, was saying that when there was no coordination, there was armed encounter; now that there is coordination, there is cooperation. We are sincere to our commitment in the ceasefire agreement. He was showing two contrasting antecedents and the two contrasting consequences to prove MILF sincerity.

Armilla told reporters they coordinated with (it should have been “with MILF through”) the government CCCH and added, the MILF were “made to understand that …” He was implying doubt in MILF sincerity — cooperating since they were made to understand!

Will the peaceful visit of the BOI team to Tukanalipao convince most outraged Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, in particular, the members of the Congress and many others in the media, etc. of the MILF sincerity in negotiating peace with the government?

The Mamasapanao outrage has been fueled by what have been shown in the media for all “to see” and “to believe” about the MILF and the Moros. The conflagration is too big to be quenched by the statement of an obscure MILF commander through the MindaNews, a Davao City small online publication. Can the BOI report if released through the media help extinguish the outrage?

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III – fond of saying, “The truth will make us free” — could have doused the outrage had he come out with the whole truth. He knew it right after January 25 as shown in the latest reports on the Senate committee hearings and in what he told congressmen in a meeting last February 23 (PDI. February 24, 2015: President answers solons’ questions).

He could have revealed the whole truth he knew in his two addresses to the nation. But instead he opted to tell the people only what he had wanted them “to see” and “to believe” at the risk – as truth is bound to come out of the people “seeing” and “believing” of him that attribute which he does not like.

(Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.)