Why family of slain SAF from Bicol didn't wait for Aquino

FALLEN HERO. Catanduanes' Police Senior Inspector Max Jim Tria. Photo courtesy of PNP

FALLEN HERO. Catanduanes' Police Senior Inspector Max Jim Tria.

Photo courtesy of PNP

CATANDUANES, Philippines – There were 42 bodies that arrived at the Villamor Air Base on Thursday, January 29, where they were honored with a welcome ceremony that President Benigno Aquino III skipped.

By evening, only 41 caskets bearing members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) who died in Maguindanao were brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The remains of Police Senior Inspector Max Jim Tria, 27, did not – would not – wait for the scheduled tribute of President Benigno Aquino III to the fallen troopers in Camp Bagong Diwa and was flown straight to his home province, Catanduanes.

Police Senior Inspector Guillermo Tria, the fallen officer's father, told local media in Catanduanes that this was an act of protest.

He wanted the President to condemn the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose elements were responsible for the death of the SAF troopers, and to rethink the proposed Bangsamoro law that would initially put the MILF at the helm of an expanded autonomous region in Mindanao.

In his address to the nation on January 28, the President mourned the ill fate of the young officers but stressed the importance of continuing the peace process despite the incident. (READ: Aquino defends SAF operation in Maguindanao)

The Trias brought home Max Jim's body early morning Friday, January 30, to Virac, Catanduanes, where relatives, 20 police academy batchmates assigned in the Bicol region, and local officials paid tribute to him – just before a necrological service for the 41 other fallen SAF members in Manila.

The family is from Cabihian village in Virac. The father of the slain trooper is officer-in-charge of the Provincial Internal Affairs Service at PNP provincial command in Catanduanes.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda echoed the sentiments of Tria's family. “Many may disagree with me, but the issue here is justice for victims of MILF brutality and betrayal. The constituency for peace has been decimated by the violence and can only be restored by justice....The betrayal is despicable. Our dignity violated and our trust destroyed. Our sorrow is indescribable.”

Batchmates shave head in mourning

The fallen hero was met by his family, his 20 mistahs currently assigned in the Bicol region, government officials in Catanduanes led by Governor Cely Wong, PNP provincial officials led by Senior Superintendent Adel Castillo, and relatives, friends and fellow Catandunganons.

Tria’s weeping batchmates from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) were led by Police Senior Inspector Jan King Calipay (now chief of police of Polangui town in Albay) who carried his casket.

Three members of PNPA Kaisang-Bisig Class 2009 died in the Maguindanao clash, which the government has called a "misencounter" – a label widely protested by the police organization. Aside from Max Jim, Police Senior Inspector Gednat Tabdi, and Police Senior Inspector Garry Erana, the class baron, also perished in the clash.

The 20 Kaisang-Bisig class members assigned across the Bicol region shaved their heads to mourn the death of their batchmates.

“We’re grieving for our mistahs and the rest of the troopers who perished in the carnage. Our snappiest salute to our fallen brothers and heroes of Maguindanao carnage, but we’re also seeking justice,” Calipay said.

'They expect empathy from the President'

Chief Superintendent Victor Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, also expressed sorrow over the killing of the SAF men, but called on his men not to be swayed by their emotions.

“My heart bleeds for the SAF troopers. I had been in the operation unit for so long. I personally saw the same incident with my own eyes and I know how it grieves their loved ones,” Deona said.

“This might be very painful to us, but we need to accept the fact. Emotions should not rule. Emotions must be contained and we must be guided by reasons,” he added.

Salceda said: “Our people are deeply thankful to them as we, especially our youth, take inspiration from the moral courage they have demonstrated when they enforced the rule of law and secure social justice for our nation. Unmistakably, they prove that there is hope for the Philippines as a nation-state.”

The governor also called out the President on what was perceived as his lack of emphathy for the slain cops and their families.

“Some people around the President should understand that Filipinos love PNoy so much that they expect so much more in return. The medals, the burial expenses, the scholarships and all the other over-offered assistance lay like frills and furbelows in the calculus of mutual solicitude in period of massive grief,” Salceda said.

“They actually expect something simpler...they expect he would be more capable of empathy, those undefinable body of words and movements that speak of sincerity flowing with no effort from the heart,” the governor added.

The provincial government of Albay is providing a P10,000 assistance for the families of the 44 slain troopers. 

Administration allies have defended the President from criticism about his supposed lack of empathy for the slain officers and their families, citing his move to spend over 12 hours with the latter and the wounded SAF troopers in Camp Bagong Diwa on January 30. Rappler.com