General who led SAF 44 probe is next Baguio City mayor

Rambo Talabong

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General who led SAF 44 probe is next Baguio City mayor
Former CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong promises Baguio City a clean environment, improved traffic, and safe neighborhoods

MANILA, Philippines – Dislodging a political kingpin, the retired general who plunged into politics for the first time is Baguio City’s new mayor.

Benjamin Magalong, the general who led the probe into the deadly Mamasapano clash in 2015, defeated PDP-Laban backed Edison Bilog, who never lost an election since 1990.

As of 9:02 am on Tuesday, May 14, Nationalist People’s Coalition-backed Magalong enjoyed an insurmountable lead against his 8 contenders with 41,207 votes. Bilog only got 22,609.

“Our people have spoken. By their collective voice as expressed in today’s elections, they have chosen their new set of leaders. I am truly humbled yet honored in hearing their voice,” Magalong said upon hearing of his lead.

During his campaign, Magalong promised the residents of the country’s summer capital accessible and high-quality government services, environmental protection, effective traffic management, and peace and order.

Among the mayoral candidates, Magalong is the only political neophyte. 

Magalong in uniform
Magalong led a police inquiry into the botched Mamasapano operation that killed 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) troopers and caused a crisis in the previous Aquino administration barely a year before the 2016 presidential elections. Aquino’s presidential bet and Magalong’s former boss, then-interior chief Mar Roxas, lost that race.

Magalong’s final report tagged then-President Benigno Aquino III of committing lapses during the top-secret operation.

Magalong conducted the probe in his capacity as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Magalong belongs to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982. In his over 30 years of service with the PNP, he served as a SAF commando and later founded the SAF Seaborne and Sniper Unit.

Generals who have worked with him described his leadership style as both calculating and empathetic.

Former PNP chief and winning senatorial candidate Ronald dela Rosa once called him his “big brother” and “right wing” in the PNP.

Magalong’s candidacy was in limbo days before the filing of certificates of candidacy. But the retired 2-star general said a certain “influential person” persuaded him to take a chance in the race.

The general’s gamble paid off. – with a report from Frank Cimatu/

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.