SAF 44 heroism deserves retelling: PNP official

MANILA — The heroism of the 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is a story that should be retold to the next generations, a ranking police official said Saturday.

“Our SAF 44 heroes did not die in vain. Had it not (been) for them, Marwan would have mobilized more extremists to terrorize the Filipino people. Had it not (been) for them, more innocent civilians would have (been) killed by their bombs,” Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP deputy chief for operations, said in his speech during the commemoration of the SAF 44’s 5th death anniversary at the SAF headquarters in Taguig City.

Eleazar said if not for their sacrifice, the country would have not achieved the peace and order it is experiencing today.

He recounted how the SAF commandos successfully carried out the mission assigned to them, as well as the stories of how the 44 slain commandos stood their ground despite being trapped, outnumbered, and outgunned by enemy forces.

“Once upon a time, a large group of elite police commandos was called upon to perform an impossible task of penetrating an enemy stronghold in a remote area of Mamasapano in Maguindanao to bring justice to the Muslim and Christian civilians who died from the bombs made by an international terrorist, Marwan,” Eleazar said.

He said the task made possible by the SAF commandos was difficult as there was only one way in and one way out from a fully-armed community who would not hesitate to kill outsiders who would dare cross their paths.

Eleazar noted that PNP Chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, has already assured full support not only to the relatives of the 44 fallen police commandos but also to the SAF as an institution through the procurement of modern firearms and other essential equipment.

Gamboa, he said, has also initiated reform programs to ensure the safety of all policemen in the front line and provide them with the necessary equipment to accomplish the missions that would be assigned to them.

“On our part, let us honor and give justice to our SAF 44 heroes by emulating the courage they displayed and the heroism that they showed. Let us honor them with the stories of courage and heroism that we must tell to the generations to come. Let us honor our SAF 44 heroes by being like them,” Eleazar said.

The commemoration of the SAF 44’s gallantry came after the Sandiganbayan junked the cases against officials responsible for the mission to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan — former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas.

Meanwhile, Eleazar welcomed the possible reinvestigation of the case in the Senate and assured that the PNP would coordinate.

Tayo ay susunod sa anumang pag-uutos ng higher authorities (We will follow whatever is the command of the higher authorities),” he added.

In a separate statement, Gamboa paid tribute to the gallantry and heroism of the SAF 44.

“Their supreme sacrifice will never be forgotten. Today, we honor their heroism and patriotism with deep pride as our inspiration to continue on our sworn duty to protect our people from lawless violence, criminal acts, and illegal drugs that destroy the lives and future of our younger generation,” he said.

This proves that the PNP is always ready to serve and protect, enshrined with heroism, Gamboa said, adding that the PNP is one with the slain police commandos’ families and loved ones in mourning for their loss.

“Let us all salute them with pride as these 44 SAF commandos could be our modern-day heroes,” he said.

On Jan. 25, 2015, 44 SAF members perished as they encountered rebels and private armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao after neutralizing Marwan.

Marwan was tagged as responsible for training Filipinos in urban terrorism and in making improvised explosive devices, which were later used in a series of bomb attacks, especially in Mindanao.   Christopher Lloyd Caliwan /PNA –