Aquino: Mamasapano unforgettable, 44 of my children died

Natashya Gutierrez
Aquino: Mamasapano unforgettable, 44 of my children died
The President says the deaths of the SAF troops is a tragedy he will carry to the end of his days

MANILA, Philippines – It was a sign of empathy and condolence, after much criticism of his alleged lack of compassion.

On Friday, February 6, almost two weeks since the deadly January 25 operation that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, President Benigno Aquino III in a national address said the deaths of his men weighed heavily on him. (READ: Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops’ target)

“I am the father of this country and 44 of my children were killed. They can no longer be brought back. This tragedy happened during my term, and I will carry this to the end of my days,” he said in his second national address since the incident.

“They were my responsibility, together with the rest of the forces of the SAF involved in this operation, as well as those who rescued them, and whose lives were likewise put in danger.”

The President also addressed the families of those who died, reiterating his support for them.

“To the bereaved families: Last Friday, I made a request to meet you, and I am thankful that you agreed to have that meeting at a time when I could speak with you, with sufficient knowledge on what had happened, and concrete proposals for your futures,” he said.

“Just as I was responsible for your loved ones, so too am I responsible for you; it is my duty to ensure that the sacrifices made by your relatives are repaid. My promise to you remains unchanged: During my remaining 17 months in office, I am doing, and will continue to do, everything I can to guarantee your families’ well-being.”

Letting go of Purisima

In the same speech, Aquino also let go of longtime friend and PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, who was reported to be in charge of the botched operation. In an interview with GMA-7’s 24 Oras Friday night, Purisima however denied leading it.

Aquino’s statements come a little over a week after he was heavily criticized for missing the arrival honors of 42 bodies in Manila. The other two had been buried earlier in accordance with their religion.

The President instead went to an inauguration of a car plant in Laguna during the arrival honors, a move viewed by his critics as insensitive. The next day, Aquino led necrological services but received lukewarm response from those in attendance, including bereaved family members.

After the service, he spoke to each of the families of the fallen troopers, staying till the wee hours of the morning. He assured them of government support and gave them at least P250,000 each from the Presidential Social Fund as monetary assistance. (READ: Aquino and the #SAF44 families)

Pursuit of Abdul Basit Usman

On January 25, some 392 SAF commandos entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, a known bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to serve arrest warrants to top terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as “Marwan,” and Abdul Basit Usman.

In his address, Aquino asked the MILF to surrender, if not help capture Usman. “We will get Usman, whatever you decide, regardless of who provides a safe haven for him, regardless of where he may be hiding,” Aquino said.

The MILF blames the failure of the PNP-SAF team to coordinate with them, as provided by its agreement with the government on operations in known MILF territories.

The incident occurred less than a year after the group 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 – a bill that has lost some support after the incident. – Rappler.com

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