A veteran lawmaker urged Malacanang to declare a “national day of mourning” for 44 personnel of the Philippine National Police or PNP’s Special Action Force or SAF who were killed in the province of Maguindanao in Mindanao over the weekend.
Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian explained the declaration will be a fitting tribute for SAF personnel, who reportedly outnumbered by Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF and its breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters or BIFF in a lopsided encounter in Barangay Takalanipao, Mamasapano on Jan. 25.
“It is quite ironic that the massacre of the 44 SAF personnel happened at a time when there is an ongoing ceasefire between the government and the MILF. The PNP is still the only police force in the country and it is their duty to enforce the law, including the service of arrest warrants,” Gatchalian said.
“The highest honor that the Aquino administration can bestow on these gallant police officers is to declare a national day of mourning and to raise the Philippine flag at half-mast in all government offices as well as in public schools,” the National People’s Coalition or NPC member added.
PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director-General Leonardo Espina had said the police operation turned into a “misencounter” after the SAF members attempted to arrest most wanted terrorist and Jemaah Islamiyah member Zulkifli bin Hir, or “Commander Marwan”. The operation against Marwan started at 10 p.m. of January 24, Saturday.
“However, when the SAF members were withdrawing, they were ambushed by the BIFF. Some had a ‘misencounter’ with the MILF,” he said.
Of the 44 slain SAF commandos, seven were commissioned officers, the rest were non-commissioned police officers. One of the non-commissioned policemen was reported as missing.
Gatchalian said the massacre of the 44 SAF personnel and the wounding of 12 others should be reason enough for Congress to evaluate the peace deal between the government and the MILF. He also suggested evaluating the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL.
The BBL seeks to create another politically autonomous Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The lawmaker also expressed surprise on the admission by officials of the Armed Forces-Western Mindanao Command that they knew about the police operation-turned ‘misencounter’ but they did not send reinforcements to help the outnumbered SAF personnel as this will be in violation of the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.
“There is a need for a thorough probe on the incident to determine who were at fault for the massacre of the 44 SAF personnel. I have no doubt that the MILF overreacted and what transpired subsequently was an overkill since there is an ongoing ceasefire between the government and the MILF,” Gatchalian said. (R. Burgos)