Aquino to play low-key role in People Power rites

Aquino to play low-key role in People Power rites

MANILA - Amid calls for him to resign over the Mamasapano debacle that resulted in the massacre of 44 police commandos, President Aquino is seen as having a low-key participation in the 29th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution this year.

As of Tuesday, it was not clear whether the President would deliver his customary anniversary speech in the annual affair commemorating the fall of the Marcos dictatorship and the restoration of democracy with the first Aquino administration in 1986.

Emily Abrera, a member of the Edsa People Power Commission, said the President and "the rest of the First Family will be invited as guests of honour for the activities."

Abrera said the rites would be kept "purposely" simple "so we can go all out for the 30th (Edsa anniversary)."

Among the commemorative activities are wreath-laying ceremonies at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Feb. 24 and at the People Power Monument the following day. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will celebrate Mass at the Edsa Shrine.

Asked about the President's apparently low-key participation in this year's celebrations, Abrera said it had nothing to do with rumours of a coup plot following the massacre of Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos by Muslim rebels on Jan. 25.

"No, not at all," Abrera said, noting that preparations had begun as early as two months ago.

Most serious crisis

Aquino has kept a low profile following the Mamasapano debacle, described as the most serious crisis his administration has faced in its five years.

A total of 44 SAF troopers, members of the most elite police unit in the country, perished during an operation that killed international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

The killing raised serious doubts about the sincerity of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace agreement with the government last year, but whose fighters engaged the SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Last address

The MILF is also being accused of harbouring Marwan and the latter's assistant, Filipino terrorist Basit Usman, who managed to escape during the Jan. 25 operation dubbed "Oplan Exodus."

The last time Aquino addressed the public was almost two weeks ago when he announced on national TV that he was accepting the resignation of PNP Director General Alan Purisima, his close friend and former bodyguard.

In that Feb. 6 address, the President did a delicate balancing act between promising justice for the fallen SAF troopers and ensuring that the peace process with the MILF would continue.

He assured a demoralized police force that "you are not alone." He said he also remained "confident" the MILF will help us in seeking justice."

Since the televised address, Aquino's official schedule has involved mostly private meetings. He hosted visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Feb. 9, and took part in a photo opportunity on Monday just before the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) meeting in Malacañang.

Aquino skipped the awarding ceremonies for the Ten Outstanding Young Men (and Women ) of the Philippines in Malacañang on Feb. 3. He also didn't attend the wedding of Sen. Francis Escudero and actress Heart Evangelista last Sunday where he was supposed to be the best man.


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