Gloomy PNP anniversary after bloody Sunday in Maguindanao

 

 

MANILA, Philippines – The mood was somber at Camp Crame Monday, January 26, as the Philippine National Police (PNP) commemorated its 24th founding anniversary.

Last Sunday, January 25, dozens of troops from its elite force – the Special Action Force (SAF) – died in a clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"May mga kasamahan tayo na hanggang sa ngayon hindi malaman ang kanilang kagayan, nasa gitna sila ng putukan doon sa Maguindanao. Sketchy man ang reports, kung ano man ang detalye, ang resulta marami sa kanila napatay," said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II during the January 26 flag-raising ceremony at the PNP headquarters. 

(Until now, we are not sure about the status of our fellow policemen since they are in the middle of fire fight in Maguinadanao. The reports are still sketchy but regardless of the details we are certain many of them have died.) 

SAF personnel were reportedly in an “operation in the area against a high-value target believed to be behind the recent spate of bombings in Central Mindanao,” PNP Office-in-Charge Leonardo Espina said in a statement late Sunday, January 25. (READ: PNP confirms elite cops killed)

Local government officials and Army soldiers are helping retrieve the bodies from the clash site. 

Reports vary but government officials said at least 27 members of the elite SAF were killed in the firefight while 5 MILF members were reportedly killed when police ran into their camp in search for members of the BIFF.

Firefight lasted until the late hours of Sunday and even into the wee hours of Monday.

The Monday flag ceremony was supposed to be a celebration of sorts for the PNP, with the awarding of select personnel for their service during Pope Francis' 5-day visit to the Philippines the week prior.

More than 25,000 police men and women were deployed in Metro Manila and Leyte to secure the routes and activity areas of the Pope. 

"Now the flag stands at half-mast. It is at half mast in all PNP camps all over the country. It signifies our respect, our admiration, our acknowledgement of the ultimate sacrifice that our bretheren gave in line of duty for each other, for their unit, for the PNP, for our people, and for their country," added Roxas. 

Bloody Sunday 

Initial reports from two Rappler sources said that the SAF teams conducted the operations in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, at 2:30 am Sunday. The SAF troops were backed up by policemen from the regional headquarters of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The military was later called on to reinforce SAF troops who were trapped in Mamasapano, where many MILF and BIFF members reside. The MILF recently signed a peace deal with the Philippine government, which the BIFF opposed.

Lead MILF peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal earlier confirmed SAF personnel entered the MILF area without notifying the group first. It is the first clash between Philippine government forces and the MILF. “This is the first encounter between the MILF and (government forces) this year. Hopefully, this will be the last,” Iqbal told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

Intelligence sources earlier told Rappler police were hunting down a top Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist in the area, alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan," who is in the Most Wanted Terrorists list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He has a US$ 5 million bounty on his head. – Rappler.com