MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Police Chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos on Tuesday led the police force in remembering the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who died during the Mamasapano encounter seven years ago, along with 33 other people.
In simple rites at the SAF Headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City attended also by families of the slain policemen, the heroism of the so-called SAF 44 was recognized, with Guevarra vowing justice for their deaths.
There are cases already pending related to the incident, the Justice department head said.
"The DOJ has filed 35 informations for the direct assault with murder
against 88 accused linked to the death of our 44 fallen heroes," Guevarra said.
"The Office of the Ombudsman has likewise filed other related cases. These cases have been filed not only to exact punishment for the wrongs committed against the 44 whose heroism we remember today," he added.
"More than exacting punishment, these cases manifest our trust in the supremacy of our laws over those who seek to subvert them and the principles upon which these laws were founded."
Police spokesperson B/Gen Roderick Alba noted the lasting influence the SAF 44 had on the PNP organization.
"We draw our inspiration sa mga bayaning tulad ng SAF 44. Henerasyon man ang lumipas, (generations may pass) their legacy goes on," he said.
In 2017, 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.
The elite group of the national police raided the interior villages of Mamasapano in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015 to get wanted terrorists. One of the subjects was neutralized during the operation, but an encounter with Muslim rebels ensued as the police commandos were withdrawing.
Aside from the 44 SAF personnel, the incident also left 17 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, at least three civilians, and an undetermined number of other Muslim rebels killed.
The MILF, which has forged a peace pact with the Philippine government on behalf of the Muslim-dominated region in Mindanao to end decades of armed conflict in the area, blamed the incident on failure by the police to make prior coordination of its law enforcement operation, as stated in a long-standing agreement.
Some Philippine government officials, on the other hand, raised questions on the sincerity of the MILF in partnering with the government as they note that the wanted terrorists are residing in an area close to where there is MILF presence, and that the Muslim rebels failed to promptly cease firing at the government troops.
- with report from Kyodo News
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