PNPA topnotcher: Mamasapano clash shouldn’t stop peace

Bea Cupin
PNPA topnotcher: Mamasapano clash shouldn’t stop peace
Cadet Dennis Yuson is a son of a policeman from Mindanao

CAVITE, Philippines – A son of Mindanao, and the topnotcher of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) class of 2015, Cadet Dennis Yuson Jr had one hope on his graduation day: for peace not to be a casualty of a botched police operation that claimed the lives of at least 67, including 44 elite police commandos.  

The class of 2015’s graduation comes two months after “Oplan Exodus,” a police operation that saw close to 400 members of the elite Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) enter known Muslim rebel territory in Mamasapano town, Maguindao to neutralize two terrorists. 

As SAF troopers were making their exit during the January 25 operation, they encountered fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), its breakaway group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and private armed groups (PAGs). 

The day-long clashes claimed the lives of at least 67, including 5 civilians, 18 MILF fighters, and 44 SAF troopers. Six of the 44 slain SAF troopers were graduates of the PNPA, with the youngest being from the class of 2011. (Editor’s note: The MILF said in its own report that 17 members died.)

It was a bright and sunny day in Silang, Cavite, but the dark cloud of the Mamasapano clash, the deadliest one-day operation in PNP history, hung over the graduation ceremonies of the 246 cadets.  

Dalawang buwan bago ang itinakdang pagtatapos na ito, ay higit pang sinubok ang aming katatagan dahil sa trahedyang naganap sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Sa pagsasakripisyo ng SAF 44, lalong lalo na sa aming mga upperclassmen, ay lubos kaming nalungkot subalit hindi kami pinanghinaan ng loob na ipagpatuloy ang pinili naming propesyon,” the 23-year-old Yuson said in his valedictory address during the PNPA’s 36th Commencement Exercises at Camp Mariano Castañeda on Thursday, March 26. 

But for Yuson, the son of a Sultan Kudarat-based police officer, the deadly clash is not a deterrence for them to serve the country they’ve sworn to protect. 

Malapit man sa peligro, ay hindi takot ang mangingibabaw sa amin kundi ang pag-aalab na magsilbi sa bayan,” said the General Santos City native. 

Ang trahedyang ito ay hindi hadlang sa hangaring makamit natin ang kapayapaan,” he added. 

“We all have emotions, we’re only human. But as an official from the PNP, you need to be on top of your emotions. Duty should always be your priority,” PNPA spokesman Chief Inspector Richie Makilan Yatar told reporters on the sidelines of the graduation rites. 

In his speech before the President’s address, Yuson pledged support to Aquino on behalf of his classmates. 

Sa tuwing may mga pagsubok na nakaatang sa akin bilang class president ay isang tao rin ang aking tinitingala pagdating sa tatag ng paninindigan sa ngalan ng tapat sa serbisyong publiko, walang iba kundi ang ating pinakamamahal na pangulo Benigno Aquino III,” said Yuson. 

(Whenever I encounter a challenge as class president, there is one person I look up to when it comes to strengthening my resolve in the name of public service – none other than our beloved president, Benigno Aquino III.) 

Kayo po ang aming lider, ang aming gabay, na maghahatid sa amin at sa bansa tungo sa isang mapayapa at maunlad na kinabukasan. Sa pakikibalikat po ng sambayanan at sa inyo pong gabay, ang dalawang daan at apatnaput pitong miyembro ng Lakandula Class 2015 ay magkakaisang palakasin ang unapormadong hanay na tumatahak patungo sa tuwid na daan.”

(You are our leader, our guide, the one who’ll bring us and the country to a peaceful and prosperous future. With the help of the entire country and with your guidance, the 247 members of the Lakandula Class of 2015 will work together to strengthen the unformed service on its way to the straight and narrow path.) 

Thanking his father

Yuson, whose father rose from the ranks until he was promoted to Police Inspect, bested 246 other cadets from the Class of 2015. When Yuson is formally commissioned in the PNP, he will have the same rank as his father. 

During his speech, the Bisaya-speaking Yuson asked his parents to stand so he could thank them. “Para ni sa inyo akong pagpadayon sa paguswag,” he said. (All my hardwork is for you.) 

Yuson singled out his father, his “idol” in the police force. “Ikaw ang inspirasyon ko sa tibay ng prinsipyo at integridad na laging pumanig sa tama at kung ano ang mas makabubuti sa kapwa,” he added. (You inspire me to strengthen my principles and integrity, and to always side with what’s right and what’s best for other people.)  

The PNPA is where young men and women study and train to be officers of the PNP, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). From the Class of 2015, 225 will be going to the PNP, 11 to the BFP, and 10 to the BJMP. 

One member of the class of 2015 was barred from attending the graduation ceremonies on Thursday because of a Class 1 offense, or a minor violation under the cadet guide. The cadet, however, will be graduating by April and will soon join his classmates in the uniformed service. – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.