Wife of SAF-44 hero wants to be a cop

Reynaldo Santos Jr
Wife of SAF-44 hero wants to be a cop
A widow at 31, Michelle Candano wants to fill in the big shoes left by her husband, one of the 44 slain PNP SAF troopers in the January 25 Maguindanao clash

CEBU, Philippines – The wife of one of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in the January 25 Maguindanao clash has made a request to President Benigno Aquino III that others might find odd.

Michelle, the 31-year-old widow of Police Officer 2 Windel Candano, told Rappler in an interview that she wants to be part of the police force herself.

She personally made the request to Aquino at the necrological service for the SAF troopers in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on January 30, where he delivered a message for the families of the SAF-44 – the collective name for the 44 slain officers.

PO2 Candano is one of two Cebuanos who perished in the botched operation against two top terrorists, alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan,” who was reportedly killed; and Abdul Basit Usman.

During her one-on-one talk with Aquino in Camp Bagong Diwa, Michelle relayed her desire to fill in the role left by her husband. She made the request after the President asked about her family’s plans and assured her that the government is there to assist them.

“I want to work just like my husband. Whatever his role in the police, I want to do just the same thing. If I can’t be like my husband in SAF, it is okay to do other roles as long as I am with the police,” Michelle said in Cebuano, recalling what she told the President, her eyes still swollen from crying.

She said Aquino replied that the government could help work on her request.

Aquino spent practically the whole day with the grieving families at Camp Bagong Diwa a day after he got flak for choosing not to attend the heroes’ welcome for the fallen officers in Villamor Air Base. (READ: The women they left behind)

‘Not about revenge’

Michelle, who is left with a 7-year-old son, said her desire to become a cop is not driven by revenge against the killers of her husband.  By being a police officer,  PO2 Candano was able to help uplift the lives of his loved ones, and that is what she wants to continue.

While talking to Aquino, Michelle said she wanted to “scold” the President because she believed that he did “not do anything” to avenge and give justice to the slain cops, but she held her tongue since she had no proof. 

“What can I do? I have no supporting evidence, though I still believe that those stories and criticisms against him were all true,” she said.

Rappler’s interview at the Candanos’ home in Dumanjug was often interrupted by 7-year-old Sian Gabriel, who approached his mother to ask for various things, from slippers to toys. He appeared happy, Michelle said, as their home has been frequented by visitors with children he could play with.

Sian Gabriel turned 7 a day before the clash between the SAF team and Moro rebels in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao. PO2 Candano called his wife and child on the eve of the operation to greet his son on his birthday.

“It was the first time for them to talk for several minutes. Sian wouldn’t talk very long on the phone before,” Michelle recalled.  

Sian is described as a quiet boy, just like his father.  When asked what he and his father talked about on his birthday, the boy began to shy away but replied in Cebuano, “I don’t know. I forgot.”

‘Constant communication’

Michelle said she was drawn by PO2 Candano’s reticence when they both worked at Savemore supermarket at the Elizabeth Mall in downtown Cebu City.

Michelle, who now works at the Cebu City Post Office, said she had a boyfriend when she met her future husband, and PO2 Candano became her confidante whenever she had love problems. They eventually ended up together.

Michelle said their last Christmas together was memorable –  alone in their home, like a couple in a new relationship. Their son spent the day visiting his cousins and returned the following day.

During their Christmas date, the couple had drinks, and Michelle tried her best to keep apace with her husband, though she wasn’t a drinker.

“He did not know that I merely wanted to please him and tried to drink,” said Michelle.

She said she never had a problem with PO2 Candano – he never shouted nor hit her, and it was she who would get loud when angry.

“I often tease him why he became a policeman when he is very soft (spoken),” Michelle said.

She said she would miss how he would always communicate with her wherever he was: text messages at the start of the day to greet her, “Good morning,” and again to ask whether she had eaten already – constant communication that made her feel that he was always near. 

PO2 Candano also communicated to two family members prior to the January 25 operation – his mother Marciana, and sister Louelyn, a nurse in United Kingdom, whom he chatted via Facebook. 

Michelle said that both got the same message: “Tabangi si Michelle. Unya (Loue)Lyn ikaw paeskwela ni Sian ha.”

Michelle said that in what was to become his final message to the two, her husband wanted to make sure that his family would be looked after, especially the education of their son in case something happened to him.  

Apparently, PO2 Candano anticipated how dangerous the Mamasapano mission would be. – Rappler.com 

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