MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III will join the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday, January 25, as it remembers one of its darkest days: the Mamasapano clash, which claimed the lives of more than 60 people, including 44 elite cops.
In an advisory sent to media on Friday, January 22, the PNP Public Information Office (PIO) confirmed that the President is the lead guest in the “Commemoration of Heroism of the Gallant SAF 44” at the Multi-purpose Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Prior to the event, the PNP will celebrate its 25th foundation day during its weekly flag raising ceremony in the same camp.
According to police officials, the commemoration will primarily feature the awarding of medals for the SAF 44 or the 44 PNP Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died during clashes against Muslim rebels in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.
On January 25, 2015, close to 400 troopers from the elite SAF entered the town to target terrorists wanted by both the Philippines and the United States. While they were able to kill one of their targets, the operation triggered intense firefight between police commandos and local armed rebels and groups.
Two companies – the 55th and 84th Special Action Companies (SAC) – found themselves trapped in two separate Mamasapano barangays (villages). All but one of the 55th SAC died while 9 were killed from the 84th SAC or the Seaborne.
All 44 slain SAF troopers are set to receive awards on Monday as well. Forty-two of them, the Medalya ng Kabayanihan (PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal) and two others, the prestigious Medal of Valor.
Chief Inspector Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron will be receiving the award posthumously. Their families are set to be awarded by no less than Aquino, PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez told media in La Union on Friday.
“The award for Medal of Valor has been approved and we have requested that it be awarded by the President,” Marquez said in a text message to Rappler on January 24.
The Mamasapano clash was – and remains to be – among the biggest controversies in Aquino’s administration. The President was strongly criticized for his supposed indifference towards the plight of the SAF, supposed involvement in the planning of the operation and for involving his friend, then PNP chief Alan Purisima, in the operation despite the latter’s suspension.
Aquino’s public approval ratings dipped to their lowest in the aftermath of the clash, with different independent probes pointing out his lapses in the planning of the operation.
The Senate is set to re-open its probe into the clash on January 27. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, out on bail for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam, has claimed he has evidence to pin down Aquino in the controversial police operation. – Rappler.com