Duterte vows justice for SAF 44 – ‘no matter how long it takes’

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte kisses the forehead of Camille Ryeann Pabalinas,daughter of the late Chief Inspector Ryan Pabalinas, one of the 44 fallen troops of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) who were posthumously awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu Magalong Medal and the PNP Medal of Valor at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace on April 17, 2018. REY BANIQUET/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 18 April) — President Rodrigo on Tuesday promised to pursue justice for the 44 Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos who were killed in a raid on Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan on 25 January 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“…I assure you that we remain resolute in ensuring that justice—no matter how long it takes—will be served,” Duterte said during the awarding of the PNP Medal of Valor and Order of Lapulapu to the slain SAF members in Malacanang.

The raid also led to the death of 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and five civilians.

The MILF blamed the incident on absence of coordination between them and the officials behind the tragic operation.

The government and MILF have an agreement to work together in the interdiction of criminals and suspected terrorists.

“You know it (the recognition) comes late but better late than never. So I am not attributing anything to anybody except that I am happy that we are able to recognize today the bravery of our police officers.

ABANDONED. A foot bridge near the site of the deadly encounter between members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on January 25, 2015 is left to rot. Residents use the newly-built steel and lumber bridge not far from the foot bridge. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“Today, we pay tribute to the gallant troopers from the Special Action Force who gave their lives in Mamasapano a few years ago. Their extraordinary display of bravery during that fateful operation does not just qualify them to receive this highly-coveted decoration. It also makes them worthy to be called as heroes,” Duterte said.

“Their tragic death in the hands of enemies who outnumbered them and surrounded them from all sides may be one of the darkest and saddest parts of our nation’s history,” he said.

But he added that through their “commitment to their sworn duty to protect our nation from terror and violence,” the SAF troopers “have successfully neutralized one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.”

The President said he hopes the recognition “will further invigorate our police officers and military personnel to perform their duties with utmost dedication, excellence, loyalty and love of country.”

He promised to provide assistance to the families of the slain SAF members such as housing projects, scholarships and jobs. (MindaNews)