FORMER Senator Panfilo Lacson criticized Malacañang on Monday for trying to wiggle out of the Mamasapano controversy by arguing that the principle of chain of command does not apply to the Philippine National Police.
“From the very start, from the time the PNP was created in 1991, the President has always been regarded as the commander-in-chief,” said Lacson, who was himself PNP chief from 1999 to 2001 before he became senator.
“Even in real life, there is a chain of command. I myself am only Number Two at home,” Lacson joked during a radio interview.
But Senator Antonio Trillanes IV again defended President Benigno Aquino III and said only Napeñas was responsible for the incident and the relieved Special Action Force commander should be man enough to admit his mistakes and ask for forgiveness from the families of the slain policemen.
“Did the President violate the chain of command?” Trillanes said. “That’s absurd. The whole world will laugh at us.”
But aside from Executive Order No. 226 of 1995 which instituted command responsibility in the PNP and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Lacson explained that the principle of command responsibility is ingrained in the PNP.
“The chain of command is present even in business organizations. What does chain of command mean? It’s the formal line of authority, responsibility in communication. This is the relationship of superior and his subordinate. So you cannot say that the PNP is not covered by a chain of command,” he said.
Lacson disputed the claim of Palace spokesmen and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the PNP board of inquiry contradicted itself in its report on the Mamasapano incident that resulted in the death of 67 people, including 44 police commandos.
The senator agreed that President Benigno Aquino III indeed had the prerogative to directly order Special Action Force commander Getulio Napeñas, but Malacañang will be hard put to explain why former PNP chief Alan Pursima was issuing orders when he was already suspended.
Lacson made the remarks after Malacañang argued that Aquino does not have any liability for the incident because the PNP was a civilian agency not covered by the principle of chain of command.
But Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reiterated that the root cause of the chaos and even the deaths that resulted from the secret operation was mainly because President broke the chain of command.
“There was chaos because the normal chain of command, the whole command structure, was bypassed, and President Aquino made his own chain of command,” Marcos told reporters on Monday.
Marcos said the chain of command during the Mamasapano incident consisted only of Aquino, Purisima and Napeñas. “So there were only three of them who planned and talked about this. So that is certainly significant,” Marcos said.
But Marcos noted that it will be hard to make Aquino answer for the incident because of the presidential immunity from suit.
“How do we make him answer? I don’t know. We’re just hoping that he acknowledges the need. That’s what the people are waiting for. What’s his reason for breaking the chain of command,” said Marcos.
On the other hand, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc in the House of Representatives, slammed the Palace from trying to discredit the BOI report after it criticized Aquino for violating the chain of command.
“It is preposterous, absurd, ridiculous, and outrageous for Malacanang to discredit a government-sponsored inquiry,” said Romualdez, also president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
“They even told the public to wait the results of the investigation and after the findings were made public, they are now assailing the PNP-BoI, that’s illogical,” Romualdez added.
Instead of washing his hands of the issue, Romualdez said President Aquino should explain why he allegedly violated the chain of command and why he should not be held liable over the Mamasapano incident.
“Like what I had been saying in the past, the President should admit full responsibility,” Romualdez said.