Prayer for justice and healing on SAF 44 2nd year anniversary

LAOAG CITY — Local officials and members of the Philippine National Police led the commemoration rites of the 44 slain members of the PNP Special Action Force on Wednesday in front of the Capitol.

As a special tribute to Police Officer 2 Omar Nacionales, a resident of Escoda village, Marcos town and one of the 44 commandos who died in the encounter, a huge portrait of him is hanged on the wall of the provincial Capitol building.

Philippine flags, representing the 44 SAF troopers and posters which states, “Justice for SAF 44” are displayed at the Capitol ground as an expression of the Ilocanos reverence to the fallen heroes.

It has been two years since the death of Nacionales but for his mother, Florencia, the deep wound it caused to her family is still fresh.

“I am grateful for the support of the Marcos family and the government. All of these are because of my son. I pray that justice be served and for our son to finally rest in peace,” said a teary eyed Florencia after she received a cash envelop from Senior Provincial Board Member Matthew Joseph Manotoc after the flag raising ceremony and offering of solemn prayer for Nacionales and the other 43 commandos.

Manotoc represented his mother, Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa Marcos who failed to attend the event.

In his speech, Manotoc said the province of Ilocos Norte is one with President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiments about the incident saying “a re-investigation must be made and there must be a sense of accountability and responsibility” to give justice to the slain victims.

“We mourn with the family of Omar Nacionales and the other victims. Over the years, we had offered assistance to them but as we know, no amount of assistance is sufficient,” he said in a short speech.

Of the 44 fallen SAF troopers who participated in “Oplan Exodus” in Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, majority of them were Ilocanos.The operation was meant to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir and other members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Unfortunately, the clash ended with the tragic deaths of the 44 commandos on Jan. 25, 2015, the biggest loss of government elite forces in Philippine history.