Sacked chief of SAF 44 runs for senator

Paterno Esmaquel II
Sacked chief of SAF 44 runs for senator
Dismissed SAF commander Getulio Napeñas is running under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance led by Vice President Jejomar Binay

MANILA, Philippines – The sacked chief of the 44 slain members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), or SAF 44, is running for senator.

Dismissed SAF commander Getulio Napeñas filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office on Friday, October 16, the last day of COC filing.

He is running under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, led by Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Napeñas, whom President Benigno Aquino III removed from his post after the death of the SAF 44, said he is running to seek justice for his men.

The SAF 44 died because of a botched police operation to capture high-profile terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, including Zulkifli bin Hir or Marwan. Their death was blamed on the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is engaged in a peace negotiation with the Aquino administration.

Referring to his slain comrades, the senatorial bet said, “Kung sila ay buhay ngayon, siguro ay sila ay nagsisisigaw ng katarungan at hustisya sa nangyari sa kanila (If they are alive right now, probably they would be calling for justice for what happened to them).”

‘Naiwanan kami sa ere’

In an apparent reference to the MILF, he pointed out that a group negotiating peace with the Philippine government was behind the death of the SAF 44.

He added, “Naiwanan kami sa ere. Hindi kami natulungan (We were left hanging in the air. We were not helped).”

Napeñas, among others, faces criminal and administrative charges over the Mamasapano incident, which Aquino blamed on the sacked SAF commander.

The SAF 44 controversy was the worst crisis faced by the Aquino administration. 

Binay has used the SAF 44 controversy against Aquino, as the Vice President himself runs for president in the 2016 elections.

Binay faces corruption charges, but Napeñas is brushing these off. Napeñas said a person, after all, remains innocent until proven guilty.

He said Binay will answer these charges in the right venue. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.