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Closing the Pandora's box—a difficult task | CMFR

Closing the Pandora’s Box—A Difficult Task

Members of the press offer a prayer in the Mamasapano cornfields in July 25, 2015, six months after the Mamasapano encounter which left at least 67 people killed. | CMFR File Photo


PRESIDENT AQUINO finally gave closure to the Mamasapano incident’s “alternative truth,” a controversy which the President himself publicly raised when he announced the government was probing another version of events in the SAF operation that led to the death of Malaysian bomb maker Zulkiflibin Hir alias Marwan during the Meet the Inquirer Multimedia forum on Tuesday, September 8.

In a live public address in Malacañang on Thursday, September 17, Aquino presented three photographs which he said convinced him that it was really the SAF that got Marwan. (“Aquino puts an end to ‘baseless’ Mamasapano speculation,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 17, 2015)

In his speech, Aquino presented the photo of a lifeless Marwan that came out in the media, which he said was cropped and only showed “a portion of the whole picture.” He then proceeded to show two more photos that reveal the entirety of the picture, showing SAF troopers beside the body of Marwan. These photos, Aquino said, were sourced from the SAF and had been validated as “authentic and unaltered” by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Besides dismissing the alternative version of events as “kwentong kutsero” or hearsay, Aquino also belied the participation of foreigners in the operation. (“Aquino: No Caucasians killed in Mamasapano,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 18, 2015)

Perhaps due to the straightforwardness of the announcement, the development did not get the same sustained coverage it had when the story first broke. Reports by the media, both in print and in television, simply restated what President Aquino had already said during Thursday’s public address. GMA-7’s 24 Oras even aired a short report on September 18 about the photographs that convinced Aquino that it was truly the SAF that got the job done. But there’s nothing new there at this point. (“Exclusive: Mga litratong kumumbinsi kay PNoy na walang ibang bersyon sa pagkapatay kay Marwan,” 24 Oras, September 19, 2015)

The only thing different that came out was the fact that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was set to file charges against 90 individuals from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups involved in the encounter with the SAF troopers. (“Alternative version baseless, irrelevant—Aquino,” Manila Bulletin; “P-Noy: No doubt SAF killed Marwan,” The Philippine Star, September 18, 2015)

Surely, Aquino’s dismissal of the alternative version, with the help of the photos he presented, cleared up the controversy about who cut Marwan’s finger.

But an editorial by the Inquirer pursued the logic of the President’s analysis and asked: “Do the pictures prove that SAF men killed Marwan?”, pointing out that the pictures only showed who cut off a finger from Marwan’s body. (“Closure on Marwan?” Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 18, 2015)

Referring to the MILF’s own investigation, the editorial mentioned how Marwan was killed by a person or persons close to him, citing lack of signs of sustained firefight in Marwan’s hut.

In the press conference in Malacañang, Inquirer reporter Nikko Dizon also pursued the same inquiry and posed the question to the President, to which he answered:

“All of the alternative versions start out with other people killing and getting the finger (of Marwan). We now have, I think, very concrete proof that already demolishes the second half of that primary assertion. So meron nang presumption of regularity. So until somebody comes out with definitive proof, equivalent to the photos authenticated already in front of you, why should we listen to that alternative version anymore?”

This angle had been raised before, but until now, even after Aquino’s so-called closure to the controversy, the question remains unanswered.