In the aftermath of the failed April 28, 2011 assault by New People's Army rebels on the Lianga police station, there were more than a few residents here in Lianga (myself included) who were having quite a difficulty getting a direct and categorical answer to one important question. How many policemen and soldiers were actually inside the station when the attack occurred in the early dawn of that fateful Thursday morning?
I was there shortly after guns had ceased firing and the insurgents, numbering at least 30 or so, had already withdrawn and fled back up the hilly terrain at the back of the municipal hall beside the police station. In minutes they were nowhere to be seen but had left behind one of their comrades (later identified by the military authorities as a ranking vice-commander of the local guerrilla front unit)who was eventually captured by government troops.
What was clear from insider reports in the aftermath of the botched dawn raid was that only eight policemen and two army troopers were involved in the actual defense of the police station. Eleven if we include the utility worker, Rodel Aquilam, who became an instant local celebrity because his decision to remain at his post and help the policemen and soldiers repulse the NPA attackers.
Yet a few days later, fifteen policemen plus the two soldiers and the utility worker were all awarded medals for bravery and gallantry by no less than Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Philippine National Police Director General Raul Bacalso. The award included cash awards and the promise of eventual spot promotions.
Obviously, the discrepancy in the number and identity of the policemen who actually fought in the April 28 dawn siege in comparison to those who were later formally cited and recognized for their successful defense of the Lianga police station cannot be just the result of some odious clerical error or careless reporting by the PNP or the DILG. The only logical conclusion that can be made is that there must be at least five lawmen in that honor lineup that did not deserve to be there.
A close acquaintance of mine with whom I discussed this matter gently chided me for placing what he considered "too much importance" on what he considered a minor issue. If, he stressed, the ten policemen and soldiers who did merit the medals and the cash awards did not object to five of their comrades getting undeserved credit for a successful action that could result in accelerated promotion and some badly needed financial help then who am I to question the "arrangement". No harm has actually been done he stressed. It's simply a case of "all for one and one for all" he added.
This "who cares?" attitude seems to be the norm here since nobody especially from among the head honchos at the municipal hall has been willing (or brave enough?)to discuss or voice a categorical opinion on this issue. If that is indeed the case then why should I be writing about the matter at all?
The siege of April 28 was significant, in my view, not only because it was an unqualified tactical success on the part of the local security forces but more so because of the sympathy and admiration the embattled policemen and soldiers generated from among much of the local population. In the general euphoria that followed the event, it cannot be denied that the police and military forces here have gained an uncommon propaganda victory. This is in sharp contrast to the typical news reports of successful NPA ambuscades and raids constantly being reported in the national media.
That our local lawmen and soldiers can be real life heroes was proven in that botched dawn raid and the medals of valor and bravery these stalwart men later received were an affirmation of that very fact. To give the same recognition to those who may not deserve it (whether anyone objects or not) debases and dishonors not only what the medals and awards have always stood for but that very act also demeans and trivializes the actual feats of uncommon valor and heroism that were accomplished in that early morning of April 28.
So if I have to rock the boat a little and bring up a "delicate" subject that has been, for all intents and purposes, swept under the rug then please excuse my temerity in doing so. It is not something I like doing just for the sheer pleasure of being contrary.
It is clear that the so called "culture of corruption" that continues to plague the local and national government machinery is partly rooted in the same misguided and corrupted mindset of "pakikisama" or mutual back-scratching that is considered as the norm within the government service. This gross distortion and abuse of the admirable Filipino trait of being considerate and being extremely sensitive to the needs and the welfare of others cannot be allowed to flourish.
That is why the official record of who really deserved to be recognized and lauded in the wake of the April 28 attack must be set straight once and for all. That is if the awarding ceremonies held at the Lianga town hall last April 30 barely two days after the NPA raid cannot be seen as just another zarzuela, a dog and pony show staged only for the benefit of the press, the onlookers and bystanders yet actually signifying or meaning nothing in itself except to trumpet what may have been, at its best, a doctored version of the truth.