Slain SAF talked about December operation
CEBU, Philippines – Police Officer 2 (PO2) Windel Candano of the Special Action Force (SAF) arrived to a hero’s welcome on Saturday, January 31, in the town of Dumanjug, as many residents stopped their activities to pay tribute to him and share fond memories of the boy they grew up with.
Candano was one of the 44 elite cops slain in a bloody clash with Moro rebels on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which is now the subject of congressional and police investigations. (READ: Aquino to appoint Mamasapano truth body?)
Candano had a degree in electronics and communications engineering. He worked in a mall then in a construction firm before joining the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Ginavel Arteza, 40, a former officemate in the construction firm, remembers Candano to be a quiet man who went out with a noisy bunch of friends but who himself liked to joke. “He would tease me about my age. He said my face looked like I am old enough to be a schoolmate of his mother,” Arteza told Rappler.
Candano’s best friend, 36-year-old Jonathan Magudato, said the last time they saw each other was when the policeman came home for Christmas last year.
His friend looked troubled, Magudato said. “Bugat kaayo to iyang gihuna huna ato uli-a kay naa pa lagi kuno silay operation nga kuyaw inig balik nya duty (He looked like he was thinking about a heavy problem. He said he would be sent to a dangerous place when he goes back to work).”
Candano talked to him about an attempt by the SAF to go to Mamasapano in December 2014 “for a similar operation,” referring to the plan to arrest top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir (or Marwan) and Abdul Basit Usman in Mamasapano.
“Giadto nana nila kanang Mamansapano, unya gitawagan kuno sila nga ipahunong unya pabalikon. Dugay naman na nila na gi study na tawhana si Marwan (They already went to Mamasapano for a similar operation but the attempt was cancelled. They had been monitoring this guy named Marwan long before),” Magudato told Rappler, recalling his conversation with Candano on December 23.
One senior government source earlier told Rappler that an all-team, high-level operation against Marwan, which involved the police and the military, was approved late last year, but preparations for the arrival of Pope Francis from January 15-19 put that plan on hold.
The January 25 operation was mounted by the SAF without coordination with the military or local authorities. The MILF, which signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government last year, suffered at least 17 casualties in that encounter.
Dream to be cops
Magudato said it was both their dream to become policemen, but only Candano made it to the PNP. Magudato did not meet the height requirements.
While fond memories made both Magudato and Arteza smile, their mood changed when asked what they wanted from government in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash. “We want justice. We want those who were responsible [for the carnage] to face justice,” Arteza said in Cebuano, echoing the sentiments of many residents in Dumanjug.
The municipal government of Dumanjug, whose residents rely on farming and fishing for livelihood, is planning a special activity on Sunday, February 8, when Candano will be buried.
Last weekend, funeral flowers lined up outside the Candano family’s house. One six-foot wreath came from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is a friend of Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Garcia. (READ: Duterte: Stall Bangsamoro law until SAF deaths are resolved)
At the entrance of the fence leading to the house stood 4 policemen.
Candano’s casket was closed. His relatives said his face was deformed as a result of the clash. – Rappler.com