Aquino pays tribute to PNP SAF 44
MANILA, Philippines – Wearing a black armband, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, January 30, honored the elite cops killed in a bloody clash with Moro rebels.
Aquino arrived at the Camp Bagong Diwa gymnasium in Taguig City at 10 am, where the remains of the fallen Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) troopers were gathered for the necrological services.
Aquino, with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, approached every coffin and said a silent prayer for each police officer alongside their family members. He expressed his condolences to the family members, and briefly chatted with some, before presenting them with the “Medalya ng Katapangan (Medal of Valor).”
Some of the family members were noticeably nonchalant when the President approached the coffins of their loved ones.
One grief-stricken woman, apparently an officer's wife, kept her back turned on the Chief Executive, and barely acknowledged him when he gently tapped her back as he prepared to give her the medal. The President handed it to the police officer's mother, instead.
Presidential sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, and Viel Aquino-Dee were also at the site to condole with the families.
After paying his respects to the troopers, the President had a private meeting with their families.
SAF Officer-in-Charge Police Chief Superintendent Noli G Taliño will deliver a eulogy for his comrades, followed by messages from two family members of the police officers, and the President's message of sympathy for the families.
Day of mourning
The President has declared January 30 a National Day of Mourning to honor the fallen police officers.
Cabinet members, top police and military officials, other government officials, and families of the slain cops filled the camp gymnasium.
The service began with an interfaith prayer, followed by eulogies delivered by the commanding officers. The necrological services were suspended in preparation for the scheduled arrival of the President at 10 am.
Of the 44 who were killed on January 25, 41 remains were present. The other two had already been buried, following their religious custom, while another had been flown to Catanduanes.
All families of the 44 police officers were present at the service.
After the program, a final viewing of the bodies would take place.
On Sunday, January 25, some 392 SAF commandos entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They were targeting two “high value targets,” one of them alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan.” The operation ended in the killing of 44 SAF troopers. (READ: Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops' target)
The incident occurred less than a year after the MILF signed a landmark peace deal with the Philippine government, and as lawmakers deliberate on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which seeks to create an autonomous region initially headed by the MILF.
The MILF blames the failure of the PNP-SAF team to coordinate with them for operations in known MILF territories, as provided for in an agreement with the government.
On Thursday, Aquino was noticeably absent at the arrival honors for the cops, who arrived at Villamor Airbase aboard C-130s. The President was instead at the inauguration of a Mitsubishi plant in Laguna.
The decision caused an online uproar. Malacañang defended Aquino, saying he would lead the service on Friday, but netizens were not appeased by the explanation.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said “the entire nation is requested to offer prayers and all public institutions are directed to lower the Philippine flag in half-mast” on Friday, in solidarity with the bereaved families of the fallen troopers.
Aquino earlier said the cops will receive full benefits for their surviving kin. – Rappler.com