Suspicion of “grand narratives”—that is one of the trademark lines of the postmodern movement. Grand narratives are the “theories of all things” that we offer, comprehensive explanations that attain canonical status. A grand narrative is the established “reading”, the “accepted” account. The result of course is that the discourses of the peripheries (a term popularized by a decidedly post-modern Pope Francis) are sidelined, passed on in no more than whispers, and with reticence. Ultimately, the bracketing of grand narratives is a gesture of social justice: allowing the suppressed and marginalized narratives closer, more respectful attention. That is what “alternative interpretations” essentially are. The result has been that “alternative” has become a respectable, attractive modifier.
Unfortunately, Malacañang tapped on this reservoir of respectability when it offered the MILF account of the Mamasapano incident as an “alternative interpretation.” Why did this proffer meet with the indignant rebuff of the nation? In the first place, it was unabashedly “PNoyesque”: an eager, almost frenetic maneuver to salvage the President’s tattered credibility from that virtually irreparable embarrassment called “Mamasapano.” According to this “alternative interpretation”, it was not the SAF who finished off the terrorist Marwan, but Marwan’s own aide. As if their slaughter were not bad enough, the SAF Fallen, according to the “alternative interpretation” that seems to be Malacañang’s favored “reading” perished in utter futility, and denied the heroism of having paid with their lives for the elimination of a danger not only to the State but to the world.
Why it is that this “alternative interpretation” is now bandied, just as Malacañang scrambles to write finis with a flourish, or why the MILF version has won favor with the administration that lost no time in seeing to its dissemination should not be too difficult to divine, actually, because, it is hoped, the President’s bungling will not appear so bad (or so the perennial cheering squad believes) if the fallen are pictured as impetuous, imprudent, improvident!
Malacañang’s woe, however, is that the SAF 44 are heroes in the popular mind. The pathos of the scene of their nearly-naked, bullet riddled bodies and the moving ritual of the arrival of their flag-clad remains at Villamor Air Base as their widows, mothers and children wailed in inconsolable grief, while their Commander-in-Chief was trying out new cars somewhere else are etched in the nation’s memory. Any attempt to derogate from their heroism will not meet with success —and that is how it seems to many with this offer of an “alternative interpretation.”
Truth to tell, it matters little to me whether Marwan met his demise at the hands of an aide-turned-asset or was killed by one of our SAF heroes. Our gallant SAF men set out on a mission that they had every right and reason to believe was ordered by all who lie in the chain of command. They believed that they were taking that danger-fraught walk through a treacherous cornfield and crossing the river, single-file and utterly vulnerable, in fulfillment of a sworn duty, for the welfare and security of their country and of the world.
It is not that there is an alternative account that is really offensive. Rather, it is the vulgarity with which it is proffered in an attempted exoneration of those who, till today, should be on their knees apologizing to a nation—and to families—that they have grievously offended!