A lot of people are telling me that the tipping point has finally come — that a critical mass of Filipinos are finally seeing Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III for who he really is: the president who should not have been elected. Readers who have followed and read Get Real Post and participated in its lively online discussions from the beginning, know that we’ve called it years before. President BS Aquino is not fit to lead the Filipino people.

Bodies of massacred Special Action Force troopers arrive at Villamor Air Base.

I used to say with a wry smile that Filipinos deserve President BS Aquino. I can’t say, however, that Filipinos deserve to die because of him.

That, of course, is not to say that Filipinos don’t routinely die preventable deaths under the watch of previous presidents. Indeed, equally appalling tragedies have happened in the past under the watch of better presidents. Yet, no lessons have been learned. Rickety overloaded passenger ships still ply the waters in between the Philippines 7,000+ islands. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos still live under the shadow of avalanches and flash floods waiting to happen. Manila’s squatter colonies are vast fire traps. Drivers of Philippine cities’ fleets of public buses and jeepneys are ill-trained, often drug-crazed homicidal maniacs. The list of killer stuff left unaddressed due to incompetence more than a lack of resources is long.

And to be fair, I have also long asserted that Philippine presidents really don’t matter to begin with — because much of what plagues the Philippines overall has more to do with the character of the Filipino than with the governance quality of any one ruling president.

So what then is so different about 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police officers massacred by the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)? After all, Aquino apologists assert, they are combatants who willingly put their lives on the line unlike the innocent civilian victims of state neglect.

But that is precisely why the deaths of the SAF 44 are special and why President BS Aquino is particularly accountable for this tragedy. BS Aquino is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the ultimate civilian boss of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The men and women of the armed services are under the direct control of the President. Their lives are at the president’s disposal.

So, really, whether President BS Aquino was aware or unaware of the circumstances of the deployment of SAF troops into “MILF territory” is beside the point. The fact staring him in the face is that, fairly or unfairly, he is seen to be responsible for the operation. It’s politics, not any sense of what is “fair”, that is at work here. BS Aquino should be familiar with this circumstance. It was this argument that he and his henchmen used to justify the underhanded and dishonest way they mounted the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Unfortunately for President BS Aquino, he is not a statesmen. Real statesmen are able to face bad PR situations head-on and come out winners. Aquino, on the other hand, squandered many opportunities to appease the public in the aftermath of the SAF 44 massacre. He waited several days after the news broke to face the cameras and address the public. When he did, he focused mainly on washing every bit of responsibility over the failure off his hands. He failed to condemn the elements of the MILF responsible for the atrocity. And the sheer lack of eloquence and pikon demeanour he exhibited over the brief period he spoke to Filipinos made even his admirers cringe.

And then he failed to show up at Villamor Air Base when the bodies of the fallen arrived, deciding instead to attend a relatively inconsequential event in Laguna that day.

We’d like to think the deaths of the 44 SAF troopers meant something — that their deaths will not have all been in vain. Sadly, we will have to face the truth that their deaths were utterly senseless. Nowadays, the MILF leadership happens to be in bed with the Philippine government thanks to President BS Aquino’s pet project, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) being reviewed in Philippine Congress. In that sense, they were really not killed by the “enemy”, but by rogue “friendly fire”. They were killed by people they were not out to stop or were intending to fight.

For that matter, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers and police officers who fought these Islamic terrorists could be said to have all been in vain. The enemy was not beaten. Though they died serving their country as heroically as Jose Rizal did, they did not really change anything.

So President BS Aquino can hang out with the families of the dead for however long the media finds all that newsworthy. He can even hang as many medals and hand out as many plaques to grieving spouses as he wants. The fact is, when he gets back to his office, the president will likely continue to treat the MILF like the “partner” he says they are in this so-called “peace process” and work through his final year-and-a-bit as president to get his administration’s “legacy” squared away.

Meanwhile, 44 fine young fighting men are dead. In time, they will join their other dead comrades in the dustbin of history; casualties of the agendas of the crooks the people they serve routinely elect to be their leaders and representatives.

The sacrifice of the valiant SAF 44 will never be forgotten.

Your sacrifice inspires us and encourages the President Duterte to take care of the well being of all the men and women in uniform.

Your heroism and patriotism strengthen our commitment to pursue programs more vigorously to address the roots of rebellion in order to achieve genuine and lasting peace. More importantly, we assure the families of our fallen heroes that the Duterte administration will never stop until the SAF 44 get the true justice that they deserve.

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