GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/02 February) — The city council here cited as heroes the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) who were slain in a clash with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.
In a resolution, the council expressed “deep sorrow and sympathy” to the families of the elite police commandos “who were massacred in Maguindanao while in exercise of their duties and responsibilities.”
Various observers and media commentators have said it is inaccurate to call the incident a massacre since both sides were armed and the MILF also sustained casualties.
The resolution said the fallen 44 SAF members mainly “died in the line of duty, in defense of the nation’s principles of justice, freedom and democracy.”
“These highly-trained personnel will forever be remembered as heroes who dedicated and sacrificed their lives for the love and service to the Filipino people and our country,” the council said in the resolution, which was passed on joint sponsorship.
City Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr., chair of the council’s committee on public order and safety, said Monday they are fully supporting the ongoing investigation by the national government regarding the incident.
He expressed hopes that the investigation will answer various questions and speculations regarding the operation.
South Cotabato second district Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. also supported the move and lauded the national government’s resolve to seek justice for the slain SAF commandos.
“We have to condemn that to the highest degree (but) we should also dig deeper to find out what really happened,” he said.
Acharon, who is vice chair of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (MILF), reiterated that the incident should not affect the continuing peace process with the MILF and moves related to the passage of the BBL.
The SAF elements were serving arrest warrants for Malaysian bombing suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and local bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman in the outskirts of Mamasapano, Maguindanao when they clashed with BILF and MILF members.
Marwan, who was reportedly killed in the operation, and Usman were included in the terror list of the United States and carry a combined bounty of US$ 6 million.
Two of the 44 slain SAF members — Senior Insp. Ryan Pabalinas and Police Officer 2 Roger Cordero — were from Region 12. Pabalinas hailed from this city while Cordero was from Isulan town in Sutan Kudarat. (MindaNews)