KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 25 January) — Police in North Cotabato rendered a 21-gun salute to honor the “SAF 44” whom they consider as “fallen heroes,” during the fifth commemoration of their deaths on Saturday.
The “SAF 44” represents the 44 members of the Special Armed Forces (SAF) who were killed in a misencounter in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 25, 2015, during an operation codenamed Oplan Exodus, to capture or kill a Malaysian terrorist. The operations, however, were not coordinated with the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Part of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF, which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, was an Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) where military and police operations in so-called MILF areas are to be coordinated with their respective ceasefire committees (Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hositlities) to avoid misencounters.
A total of 66 persons were killed that day five years ago, 44 from the SAF, 17 from the MILF and five civilians.
Col. Maximo Layugan, Cotabato Provincial Police Office (CPPO) provincial director, led the ceremony on Saturday inside the provincial headquarters at Amas complex, here.
Layugan, his men, and families of some of the fallen heroes, offered flowers at the PNP Heroes Wall inside the camp.
The CPPO Community Affairs and Development Branch said that before the gun salute, a mass was held, presided by Father Hipolito Paracha of the Diocese of Kidapawan.
Layugan said the commemoration was in accordance with Presidential Proclamation No. 164, declaring January 25 of every year as a day of National Remembrance for the Heroic Sacrifice of the SAF 44 of the PNP.
Layugan said the heroism of SAF 44 will continue to serve as the “beacon of light” for all the police personnel and a “guiding instrument” in achieving lasting peace and order in the country. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)