Calabarzon police chief is next SAF director
Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force.
Release / PNP PIO

Calabarzon police chief is next SAF director

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - May 12, 2021 - 1:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Police Brig. Gen. Felipe Natividad has been installed as the newest director of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.

Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, presided the turnover of command between Police Maj. Gen. Bernabe Balba, outgoing SAF director, and Natividad at the SAF Headquarters at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Eleazar expressed confidence that Natividad would lead the elite force with professionalism and high integrity in battling terrorism, insurgency, crime groups, and other high-value target criminals. 

“I am confident that under your leadership, the SAF will maintain its earned reputation of being the most dependable and highly-specialized force that aims to ensure peace and order across the country,” Eleazar said.

Natividad was Calabarzon police chief when the 'Bloody Sunday' raids took place in March, resulting in the deaths of nine activists and progressive leaders. 

At the time, Natividad was quick to say that the search warrants being served were against "alleged members of the Communists Terrorist Groups" and were in compliance with Executive Order No. 70, or the order creating the red-tagging anti-communist task force. He also claimed that all the deaths were the result of "armed encounters."

The regional police office tripped over its narrative on the operations, claiming in separate statements that they weren't sure of the suspects' affiliations, but also that they were linked to armed rebels. They also weren't sure what the illegal firearms found on them were, but asserted that there were in fact "small guns, long guns, and explosives" present. 

He will now be put in charge of the PNP's elite arm, whose members are known to be among the most well-trained police personnel in the country.

READ: Up to regional police to explain, but PNP stands by bloody raids

'Best of the PNP'

According to Eleazar, the new SAF director is also known within the agency for his role in running after a small group of Abu Sayyaf Group in Bohol as the Police Provincial Director there.

Eleazar also urged SAF members to remain focused in maintaining peace and order, claiming its operational capability was further enhanced with the support of President Rodrigo Duterte who cleared the purchase of new helicopters and the recruitment and formation of new battalions. 

“The Special Action Force is the representation of what is the best of the Philippine National Police,” said Eleazar. “When it comes to courage, when it comes to discipline and when it comes to integrity, there is no doubt that you will never be questioned here."

Former SAF director Balba, for his part, was designated as the new director of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Visayas. 

Eleazar expressed gratitude to Balba for his contributions to improve the operational capability of SAF not only in the field of law enforcement, anti-insurgency, and anti-terrorism operations but also in disaster relief and response.

“Balba proved that SAF aren't all muscle but also heart and empathy for Filipinos during floods when people were in need,” he said in Filipino.

PNP chief Eleazar was also commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield when fully-armed SAF members with drones were deployed to Cebu City to enforce health protocols. 

The same practice was carried over to Metro Manila amid the enhanced community quarantine in March. 

READ: Is deploying cops really a 'tried and tested' pandemic response?

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