US envoy honors SAF 44
MANILA, Philippines – United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, in his Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) speech, honored the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25.
"As we commemorate this Day of Valor in the Philippines, we honor all those who have fallen in the name of freedom, and we also honor the memory and heroism of the 44 Special Action Force members who laid down their lives to protect us all against a modern scourge – international terrorism," Goldberg said in his speech at the celebration at the Mt Samat Shrine in Bataan on Thursday, April 9.
US participation in the bloodiest police operation is under scrutiny following revelations that the Americans were present in the SAF tactical command post while the operation was kept a secret from the OIC police chief. The Americans also provided the maps that the SAF used in the operation. (READ: SAF's Oplan 'Exodus' map came from Americans and American tried to give orders in Mamasapano)
Philippine officials maintain that US participation was limited and that no American was involved in the combat operations, which is expressly prohibited under the Visiting Forces Agreement.
In his speech, Goldberg also reiterated the US commitment to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty.
"As President Obama said last year during his visit to Manila, 'our commitment to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty is ironclad.' In good times and bad, we stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder," Goldberg said.
The Day of Valor remembers the fall of Bataan during World War II, when Filipinos and allied American Forces surrendered to Japanese Forces and were made to join the "Death March" from that province to concentration camps in Tarlac, another province north of Manila.
Japan apologized decades later for its cruelty and has since become an ally of both the Philippines and the US.
"Twenty years ago, we were enemies. Now we are friends. May this friendship last forever," said Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa in his speech in Bataan. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com