Senate bill: Declare Jan 25 special working holiday for SAF 44

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate bill was filed seeking to declare January 25 as a nationwide special working holiday to commemorate the lives of the 44 members of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force who were killed in a botched operation. (READ: Inside Mamasapano: When the bullets ran out)

Senator Nancy Binay filed Senate Bill No. 1248 on November 21, 2016, to remember the “heroism and sacrifice” of the fallen SAF 44, who died on January 25, 2015, during the Mamasapano clash. The measure has so far only passed the first of 3 readings required for a bill to become a law. 

Binay, in her explanatory note, said that “the efforts of the PNP-SAF44 will always be remembered and should be given recognition.”

“These 44 heroes sacrificed their lives with only one thing in mind: to fulfill their mandate to enforce the law, prevent and control crimes, maintain peace and order, and ensure public safety and internal security with the active support of the community,” the bill said.

“Not only did they accomplish their mission, they made the PNP-SAF proud and serve as an inspiration to cadets and future policemen,” it added.

The SAF 44 were serving the arrest warrants against most wanted terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir or “Marwan” and Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed while Usman was able to flee from authorities. He was later killed in May 2015. (READ: TIMELINE: Mamasapano clash)

The Senate conducted a probe into the incident and eventually concluded that then President Benigno Aquino III was “ultimately responsible” for the Mamasapano carnage that also killed 5 civilians and 18 Moro rebels. (READ: FULL TEXT: Senate report on Mamasapano)

A separate report by the police Board of Inquiry also held Aquino responsible for "bypassing the chain of command" during the Mamasapano operation. The Office of the Ombudsman, however, absolved him.

The Senate report said Aquino's biggest mistake was allowing his close friend,  PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, to continue his participation in the SAF operation even as he served a suspension order over graft charges. (READ: Text messages show Aquino knew details)

The Senate also found that "there are indications that the planning and the execution of the Oplan Exodus were not 100% Filipino planned and implemented" and that "the United States had significant participation" in the operation.

The Senate panel recommended charges against resigned Purisima and sacked Special Action Force commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters responsible for the death of the SAF troopers.

The blood incident killed the proposed Aquino-backed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which aimed to provide a peace framework in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed his intention to reopen the probe into the clash to find out what happened to the ransom offered for Marwan. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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