For me, the recently released report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima spelled out culpability at the operational level — breakdown in the chain of command, non-performance and lack of prudence observed in the civilian executive officer within whose local jurisdiction the whole episode transpired, reckless impudence on the part of the Media in how they hindered the flow of the negotiations and ultimately fatally compromised it, etcetera, etcetera. It had identified a dozen or so low-level fall guys and all but localised the incident — effectively exonerating our collective macro-level cultural accountability for this needless tragedy as a people.
But can we the Filipino people be really let off easy, thanks to the way the IIRC report had now introduced specificity to the blame surrounding this terrible tragedy?
Perhaps I have to concede that esteemed Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros was right in highlighting in a recent piece, that this report is meant more for the eyes of Filipinos first. After all, much of what was described in the IIRC report is relevant only to an internal witch hunt. They are relevant to us who know our own internal pettiness and smallness but offer not much real insight to external observers who are trying to come to terms with the enormity of the incompetence they witnessed in living colour unfold in their living rooms. While we are, among ourselves, able to point fingers at this or that bozo, to an external observer who sees only Filipinos and our country the Philippines, we all come across as just a bunch of idiots sitting in a pop car trying to move it forward by pushing and pulling against one another.
Basic physics tells us that internal forces within a body cancel out each other and do not contribute to moving said body overall.
And on that note, the greatest physicist of them all did say this:
Problems cannot be solved by applying the same thinking that created them.
For every two-bit mayor, general , or Media moron we put behind bars or irrevocably disgrace in one or the other of these hearsay “investigations” that are conducted, another one of their kind will come out from the woodwork to take their place. This woodwork behind which an infinite supply of moronism resides is The System, said system being the underlying core of Da Pinoy Condition whose key three pillars we have for the longest time highlighted:
In short, while the IIRC report is a pretty good report on the fact finding exercise mounted by Malacanang, it stops short of pointing out deep DEEP systemic issues at the very fibres that make up the very fabric of our society — the sorts of issues that make such tragedies endemic to Filipinos. It is my hope then that the effort to get to this level of change — no, reform — does not stop with mere names but go all the way to ideas that define us as a people — down to the very way Filipinos think (or not think) their way through overcoming all the challenges we face. Hopefully this is the sort of outlook we can come to expect over the next six years of the term of a President who pitched himself to us as one who is out for real reform.
Considering that it was ultimately a Malacanang official that headed the IIRC, it is really not that surprising that the buck lost altitude midway in its flight to the top of the command chain. So now we are stuck with mere names of mere people who in the overall scheme of Da Pinoy Condition will probably matter in all but the next six to twelve months (an optimistic reckoning considering our stunted collective capacity for remembering and learning). The challenge henceforth is to ensure we do not lose sight of the real nature of why things like this happen “onli in da Pilipins” — things like this being tragedies that happen again and again and again year in and year out whether they be civilian massacres (such as the one that is the subject of the IIRC report), buses going over cliffs killing people by the dozen, mudslides that bury people alive by the village load, or dilapidated inter-island ferries that routinely become the wattery tombs of thousands of Filipinos every year.
The IIRC report is a double-edged sword. On one edge is the blade that could likely cut through the necks of the dozen or so fall guys that were named, on the other edge is the blade that will cut our collective interest in learning the DEEP lessons this tragedy presents to us.