Palace: Stay calm

Policemen in Cebu province honor two of their fallen comrades, Special Action Force members PO1 Windel Candanao of Dumanjug and P01 Romeo Caempron of Consolacion, whose bodies arrived Saturday at the Mactan International Airport.

MANILA — Stay calm and look at the bigger picture.

This was how Presidential Communications Sec. Herminio Coloma Jr. downplayed reports of military and political unrest following the botched Palace operation that resulted  in the death of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“We understand that the incident resulted in heavy hearts, intense emotions and deep pain for the relatives and friends of our 44 [Special Action Force] heroes and our entire nation that grieves with them,” Coloma said in an interview with state radio dzRB on Saturday.

“But maybe it would be better for those offering commentaries and suggestions to remain calm and seek to know the bigger picture,” the Cabinet official said.

“This big picture has two elements: our fights against terrorism which brings great anxiety and danger to our citizens. Second, our desire to attain long-term peace,” Coloma said.

“If we allow intense feelings at emotions to rule, we may lose focus on more important priorities,” Coloma explained.

But lawmakers are convinced that threats of political unrest may turn into a reality if President Benigno Aquino III again mishandles his Mamasapano debacle and fail to give justice to the 44 police commandos to died in the bungled operation.

Given the “very volatile” situation triggered by the incident, 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said the President should not take lightly any threat of political or military unrest and calls for mass actions among the religious and civil society groups.

“I hope not [that a coup will happen],” Bello said. “But President Aquino should do something to salvage the very unstable situation.”

He said the President could show sincerity in his condemnation of the incident if he would get rid of suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.

By sacking Purisima, Bello said the President will be able to show to the grieving families and the Filipino people that he is a “caring president.”

“The President should make a very strong statement demanding that the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] show its sincerity in the peace process by helping government give justice to our fallen but brave policemen,” said Bello, who himself was a former peace negotiator and former justice secretary.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz also warned the President to be more sensitive to the wrath of the mourning public and not to be complacent.

“I hope it will not result in a coup,” de la Cruz said. “But definitely, it has engendered unrest within the ranks and further diminished the públic appetite for the peace process and the [Bangsamoro Basic Law],” de la Cruz said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said that the writing on the wall is clear: the families of the fallen heroes and the public are disappointed and dissatisfied with Aquino’s handling of situation.

“It is obvious that the PNP as well as the AFP are discontented and even angry with what President Aquino did regarding the Mamasapano incident and the events leading to it and his refusal to admit responsibility while blaming the SAF for the bloody operations,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Aquino and Purisima even violated the chain of command when they excluded Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and acting National Police chief  Leonardo Espina from the operations.

“The greatest fear of Malacanang now is if the discontent could lead into a coup d’etat,” the congressman said.

“That is why they are trying their best at damage control. After all their very commander-in-chief and General Purisima themselves violated the chain of command,” Colmenares said.