MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the country's "debt of gratitude" to 44 police commandos who lost their lives in an anti-terror raid "cannot be repaid", 6 years after their death in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
The mission of the Special Action Force troopers to arrest an al Qaeda-linked bomber went disastrously wrong when they were ambushed and outnumbered by rebel gunmen on Jan. 25, 2015, in what was one of the biggest crises of Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III.
"An enduring testament to the unyielding commitment of the uniformed personnel to fight all threats to our national security, this heartbreaking incident serves as a painful yet necessary reminder to all of us that the struggle for peace comes with a very heavy price," Duterte said in a statement.
He told loved ones of the slain troopers, "Please know that we owe you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid, and that you have the love and respect of a grateful nation."
The Mamasapano killings had dealt a blow to Aquino’s vaunted peace efforts with separatists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had agreed to disarm in return for self-rule over predominantly Muslim parts of Mindanao.
The peace process, which started in 1976, culminated in 2018 with the creation of the Bangsamoro region or "nation of Moros."
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— With a report from Reuters