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Pnoy, Mamasapano, Accountability, Deniability

I so do not buy into the notion that President Pnoy ought to be held accountable for the Mamasapano massacre simply on the oft-quoted principles of ‘chain of command’ and ‘command responsibility.’

Whilst technically, Pnoy is indeed the superior of everyone in government, most people in the organisation that is government will neither have direct access to him nor take direct instructions from him as well.

That is why in government, as in any other organisation, there is this thing called the hierarchy, consisting of levels of governance with diverse offices in charge of a wide range of operational concerns.

To insinuate that the President knows or ought to be consulted about every iota of daily operations is naïve. Referring everything to him, even if this is possible given the scale of operations, will be contrary to the notion of governance in a modern state.

It is simply not practicable.

Therefore, many of his responses to deflect off criticism after the Mamasapano massacre have been, indeed, quite valid. There is, however, a ‘however.’

The questions always were, from the very beginning, did he or did he not micro-manage. In other words, did he skip down over levels of the hierarchy to dip his fingers into operational matters that were directly not his concern?

The concept of command responsibility is always flaunted during witch hunts; but what is seldom clarified is how far up – or down – an organisation it should be applied when, to put things conversationally, the shit hits the fan.

Even when I was in management, I was not prepared to accept accountability for the actions of a subordinate if I was not even aware of these. In my opinion, even having knowledge is not sufficient to establish accountability. After all, it is the business of those in management to know what is going on within the organisation.

Instead, it is when input is given of the sort that influences the execution and results of a plan that, indeed, a superior becomes accountable; and most especially so if the results become unfavourable as a consequence of the input.

Notwithstanding the fact that Marwan was supposed to be an international terrorist and that there was American bounty over his head, any operations to accost him were still, in the strictest sense, police business.

That the President needed to know more than the cursory details of the plan to arrest Marwan is debatable. That any input from him was necessary is even more so. After all, the reason there is a hierarchy is that the offices in it are occupied – at least in a perfect world – by people who are supposed to be capable of planning and executing operational plans.

In other words, they are supposed to be experts in their fields.

The most curious thing, at least from a management standpoint, about the Mamasapano operations was, therefore, that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Director General Leonardo Espina were kept out of the loop.

If that was not stupid, I really do not know what it was. The two gentlemen would have represented two levels of the hierarchy which would have offered the President deniability and therefore insulated him against accountability.

Whether it was the President’s decision to by-pass the two gentlemen or whether he gave his blessings to any plans to do so, that is yet to be established. Whatever the case may be, it is the two gentlemen who now enjoy the deniability that should have been the President’s in the first place.

Whichever way the Mamamasapano operations went, the result of these was something that Roxas would have reported to the President either at cabinet level or face-to-face as his direct superior in the chain of command. That is, had the planning and execution been conducted the way it should have.

Then the President would have taken action based on what Roxas reported. Instead, he has had to withstand flak being hurled at him from various sectors, including, as everyone knows, calls for him to resign his position.

So is Pnoy accountable for Mamasapano? I do not know anything beyond that we read in the media to forward an opinion. What I do know is that the sooner he lays off poor Getulio Napeñas, the better it will be for his own sake.

The more he mouths tirades against the former SAF head, the more he lets us know his finger was dipped in the pie. Exactly how far down and whether it made him accountable for the botched operations, this is something that I will leave to everyone to figure out.