MANILA - Filipinos on Thursday were urged to remember the heroic sacrifice of 44 elite police commandos killed in a bloody encounter in Maguindanao during a botched anti-terror operation three years ago.
Several government officials paid tribute to the fallen Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) members killed in a firefight with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao after they neutralized Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino cohort Basit Usman.
Senators Grace Poe and JV Ejercito called on Filipinos to promote peace as a tribute to the fallen commandos.
Poe, who led the Senate inquiry into the Jan. 25, 2015 incident, noted how justice has been elusive to the slain officers' families.
"We have vowed on their graves that justice will be swift, and yet it is slow. Not one of those who have put our boys in harm’s way has been punished," said the lawmaker.
Poe's panel had recommended that top officials from the past administration be held liable, including former President Benigno Aquino III.
"While charges have been filed against people who are believed to be responsible for the debacle, nothing much has happened... Let us all pursue this unfinished business because the best reparations we can offer is to create a peaceful and progressive society that guarantees that Mamasapano will not happen again," Poe said in a statement.
Ejercito, meanwhile, called on the public to honor those who "risked their lives in order to make our lives more safe and secure."
"Let us renew our commitment to bring justice and comfort to the family and loved ones of those who sacrificed their lives," Ejercito said in a statement.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, meanwhile, vowed that his department would bring justice to the victims of the bloody encounter.
"While mindful of the security concerns involved in the trial of the case, we will pursue the quest for justice with dogged determination and perseverance," said Aguirre in a statement.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday held a ceremony in honor of the fallen commandos at the Memorial Park at the SAF Headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte declared January 25 of every year as a National Day of Remembrance for the 44 slain elite policemen, whose deaths had sparked public outrage.