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Alternate reality

PRESIDENT Aquino opened up a can of worms this week by acknowledging that the government was investigating “an alternative version of events” surrounding the Jan. 25 Mamasapano massacre in which 44 police commandos were killed in a covert operation that he had approved.

In this version of events, the target of the mission, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, was killed, not by Special Action Forces troopers sent to Maguindanao to hunt him down, but by his own aide, who wanted to collect the $6-million bounty.

This “alternative version,” the President said, was “undergoing very intense scrutiny.”

Curiously, the version of events that Mr. Aquino is peddling now is the same one put forward by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose fighters participated in the massacre of the police commandos, despite its ongoing peace talks with the government.

In suggesting that we look again into this angle, the President in effect cast doubt on several investigations that have already been conducted, including the official one conducted by the police board of inquiry, the results of which were released in March. To nobody’s surprise, he is also calling into question the findings of the Senate investigation that the President was ultimately responsible for the deaths of the 44 police commandos.

What is most puzzling about the President’s late pitch for an alternative truth is the timing and the motive.

If the President had his doubts about the findings of the official investigation, should he not have raised these earlier? Why did he wait so long? Why did he not come forward to raise this alternate version of events when the investigations were still ongoing?

Also, what does he hope to accomplish by giving credence to the MILF version of events, other than to demoralize the police force by tarnishing the memory of the 44 SAF commandos who were killed? Certainly, the question of who pulled the trigger on Marwan does not change the fact that the SAF troopers died that black day in Mamasapano while performing their duty. Nor does it exonerate the President from the ultimate responsibility for putting his friend, the suspended national police chief, in charge of a covert operation that went terribly wrong because of poor planning.

Perhaps there is some truth after all to suggestions that this President lives in an alternate world with his own version of reality.

In this alternate version of the Philippines, the trains run safely and on time; justice is meted out to friend and foe alike; commuters and motorists do not lose hours every blessed day stuck in gut-wrenching traffic; government officials do not shamelessly use public funds to promote themselves in time for next year’s elections; funds for those affected by natural disasters are not squandered or left idle in government bank accounts; and drivers licenses and license plates are issued promptly.

Sadly, this is not our reality today—and it will never be if we have a President who is so inept at coming to grips with the truth that he must create his own alternative version of it.

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