TWO years after they were mercilessly gunned down in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, justice remains elusive for the so-called Gallant 44 or the 44 commandos of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force who were killed in a single day while on a mission to get Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
President Duterte himself wants to know why no air support was given to beleaguered SAF commandos that infamous day, PNP chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa, said.
Air and artillery support, warfare experts could have literally turned the tide of battle on the side of the SAF troopers. Sadly, no such help came, the PNP Board of Inquiry headed by now retired Director Benjamin B. Magalong said.
Dela Rosa was a member of the BOI which stood their ground and released their truthful findings on the incident amid pressure from higher-ups from the former Aquino administration.
“Sa amin lang po sa BOI ay meron po na dapat na managot. Alam niyo na ’yun,” the PNP chief said without elaborating. Of the 44 slain policemen, two -- Senior Inspector Gednat G. Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo C. Cempron -- got the PNP Medal of Valor or Medalya ng Kagitingan (posthumous), the highest PNP award for bravery.
Forty-two others led by Supt. Raymond Train, the leader of the commando team, were granted the PNP Distinguished conduct Medal or Medalya ng Kabayanihan after the PNP Bravery Medal or Medalya ng Katapangan-Interim previously given to them were ordered canceled.
As the country commemorates the 2nd anniversary of the Mamasapano tragedy, families, colleagues and supporters of the hero cops will wear shirts emblazoned with the words “Justice for SAF 44.”
Grieving widows, sons and daughters and parents and siblings of the Gallant 44 continue to be haunted by their death, the pain still fresh even if two years have passed already.
During the Aquino administration, the PNP failed to erect a planned ‘Eternal Flames’ for the ‘Bayaning Pulis’ in Camp Crame which will serve as a perpetual reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by the fallen troopers, reportedly due to orders from the higher-ups who don’t want any structure that will forever remind the public of the Gallant 44’s death.
Supposed to be, the ‘Eternal Flame’ was a brainchild of then Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and will be launched during the celebration of the Police Service Day every August 8.
The Olympic-like flames will symbolize the country’s deep gratitude for all PNP personnel who have been killed in the performance of their sworn duties to ‘serve and protect’ and serve as a site of remembrance of the valor and honor of the PNP fallen heroes. Lastly, it will also serve as a sacred heritage place for people to commemorate the sacrifices of all ‘Bayaning Pulis’ in serving and protecting the country from terrorists, criminals and other lawless elements 24/7.
The plan failed to push thru, however. The 44 Fallen ‘Tagaligtas’ are Senior Inspectors Ryan B. Pabalinas, John Garry A. Erna, Max Jim R. Tria, Cyrus P. Anniban and Gednat G. Tabdi; Inspectors Joey S. Gamutan and Rennie L. Tayrus; Senior Police Officer 1 Lover L. Inocencio; Police Officers 3 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr., Virgel S. Villanueva, Andres V. Duque Jr., Noel O. Golocan, Victoriano N. Acain, Junrel N. Kibete, Jed-in A. Asjali, Robert D. Allaga and John Lloyd R. Sumbilla; Police Officers 2 Amman M. Esmulla, Peterson I. Carap, Roger C. Cordero, Nicky DC Nacino Jr., Glenn B. Badua, Chum G. Agabon, Richelle S. Baluga, Noel N. Balaca, Joel B. Dulnuan, Godofredo B. Cabanlet, Franklin C. Danao, Walner F. Danao, Jerry D. Kayob, Noble S. Kiangan, Ephraim G. Mejia, Omar A. Nacionales, Rodel E. Ramacula and Romeo V. Senin II; and Police Officers 1 Russel B. Bilog, Angel C. Kodiamat, Windel L. Candano, Loreto G. Capinding II, Gringo C. Cayang-o, Romeo C. Cempton, Mark Lory O. Clemencio, Joseph G. Sagonoy and Oliebeth L
The 44 were killed after neutralizing Marwan but not after attracting the attention of hundreds of gunmen in the village and falling prey to what is locally known as “pintakasi,’ -- a conglomeration of just about any armed malefactor, immaterial of group affiliation and united by religion, blood ties and the singular goal of annihilating a common enemy, usually an outsider or intruder.
In the course of the firefight, efforts to halt the crisis and effect ceasefire were made to no avail. As a result, 44 SAF commandos died in the clash while 16 others sustained severe injuries. On the MILF’s end, it was reported that 18 were killed and 14 others were wounded. An unreported number of BIFF men were likewise killed. The Mamasapano community also incurred five dead and three maimed local residents.
Survivors recounted how the slain commandos screamed for help and shouted “I love you mommy,” “I love you baby,” and “I love Seaborne” while being mowed down by the gunmen.
Train stated: “I cried out when I saw the bodies being dragged like pigs. But I want to account for all my men. That was the least we can do for their families -- to bring their loved ones back.”
Thirteen of the Gallant 44 were Igorot policemen who showed the whole world the meaning of the word courage on January 25, 2015. Another named Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan lived to tell the bravery of his colleagues.
As pieced out by the PNP-BOI, PO2 Lalan was the only one among the 35 commandos from the PNP-SAF’s 55th Special Action Company who survived the blazing guns of the MILF, the BIFF and other armed groups in Mamasapano.
Eight of the Gallant 44 were shot in the head, three were believed to have been killed after their bullet-proof vests were removed. Two were shot when they were already dead. The rest were shot repeatedly in the head and other parts of their bodies or in short, were given the ‘coup d ‘grace,’ all acts which constitute the crime of murder, the PNP-BOI found out.