MANILA - Is the government badgering relatives of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos slain in the Mamasapano clash to attend an awarding ceremony to be led by President Benigno Aquino III?
Marilyn Tayros, bereft sister of Insp. Rennie Tayros, claimed Sunday that the government has been "pressuring" them to attend the rites at Camp Crame, where Aquino will confer the medals to the slain policemen on their first death anniversary on Monday.
Tayros said her family declined the government's invitations because they have set their own plans to commemorate the death anniversary of the "SAF 44."
She added that the trip to and from Manila and their hometown in Zamboanga Del Sur will be inconvenient.
"Three days before, pini-pressure iyung family na magpunta talaga kaso kami, malayo kami. Sabi libre raw ng pamasahe, back and forth, pati accommodation," she said.
"Kaya lang itinaon nila sa [January] 25 e talagang tradisyon naman natin... ng tayong mga namatayan na kapag death anniversary, especially itong first death anniversary nila, na hindi pwede naming iwanan."
(READ: PNoy to confer medal of valor on two slain SAF troopers)
When 'no' is a no-no
Tayros added that several SAF 44 widows were unable to decline the invitation after officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) personally visited them.
She said the wives, who are contractual employees of the PNP and the government, feared that their jobs will be compromised.
"Iyung mga asawa, naaawa ako sa kanila, tumatawag na ma-compromise daw iyung trabaho nila dahil kung hindi raw pupunta. Mga officer talaga raw ang pumupunta sa kanila e, 'Ano, ipapahiya niyo ba kami sa Crame, ito lang naman mag-aaward... Andiyan ka naman sa gobyerno, nagtatrabaho, contractual pa,'" she said.
Tayros claimed that among the wives who were forced to attend Monday's program is Virgie Viernes, widow of P02 Olibeth Viernes.
"Halos lahat na sila pupunta pero umiiyak iyun dahil iyun nga... Iyung iba, nag-cancel na ng okasyon nila (para sa death anniversary). Ginagawa na nila sa 26 dahil hindi talaga pwedeng hindi pupunta," Tayros said.
Slain SAF troopers Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron will posthumously receive the Medal of Valor from Aquino on Monday.
A Medalya ng Kabahayanihan or the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal will also be awarded to the other members of the SAF 44.
Tayros said the government should not have waited for a whole year before conferring the medals to their troops.
"Sana dapat kung mayroon mang ganyan, hindi na sila aabot ng ganito at itinaon pa nila sa one year death anniversary," she said.
"Nadidismaya rin kami, hindi lang kami sa Tayros family, kundi lahat talaga kasi papuputahin pa kami sa Crame... Mayroon naman tayong kanya-kanyang okasyon sa bahay."
Tayros also maintained that the families of the slain policemen have yet to receive some of the aid promised by the government.
She said they have received a monthly pension and the death benefits, but not the livelihood and housing aid promised them.
"Talagang ang natatanggap namin ay ang PNP ang gumagawa, iyung pera ng mga namatay na sa kanila talaga iyun. Pero iyung sinasabing mayroong NHA (National Housing Association benefits), pangkabuhayan -- saka lang sila nag-a-active ngayong mag-one year na," she said.
"Wala talaga kaming natanggap. Walang natanggap na livelihood, walang natanggap na NHA o ano pa man."
(READ: Palace says extensive assistance given to SAF 44 families)
Tayros also decried the slow pace of providing justice for the slain law enforcers.
"Iba talaga ang sistema e, ang hina... One year na e, dapat nakausad na," she said.
On January 25, the nation will commemorate the first year of the bloody clash, which saw over 60 individuals killed in an operation to neutralize Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim secessionist group which entered into a peace negotiation with the government, was one of the parties blamed for the SAF troopers' death.
With MILF's sincerity in the peace process put into question, the passage in Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was supposed to institutionalize the agreements between the Moro group and the government, was considerably delayed.
The Senate is set to reopen its investigation into the bloody encounter on Wednesday.