Thank you, SAF 44

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

To me, the single most defining moment in the Aquino presidency was the Mamasapano incident, in which 44 of the Philippine National Police's elite Special Action Force were massacred by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as they were trying to capture two international terrorists. Every fiber of Aquino's being came under scrutiny in that incident -- what kind of president and commander-in-chief he was, and of what stuff he was made as a person.

The 44 SAF commandos died as heroes in the service of our country. They gave up their lives so that we might have peace in ours. When they went on the mission, they knew it was dangerous. They knew some of them may not make it alive. And yet they went because it was their job, it was their responsibility. When they joined the SAF -- Ang Tagapagligtas -- they knew someday they might have to make the supreme sacrifice. They made a decision with their lives.

Except for the top officials who planned the mission, the SAF commandos did not know the full details of their top secret mission. Yet, on the day they bade their wives, children, parents and loved ones goodbye, they drew strength from a confidence shared among men in uniform that they would have each others backs, and that their commanders, in an unbroken chain of command all the way up to their commander-in-chief, would always take care of them, have their best interests in mind.

And so the SAF 44 went, straight into the hell that was Mamasapano. They achieved the first objective of their mission, which was to neutralize the target terrorists. But the terrorists, it turned out, were not the real enemy. The real enemy was the MILF, with whom the SAF's own government had been talking peace, a peace that that very same government was trying to save at all cost, even if it meant sacrificing the lives of its own trapped SAF commandos.

For almost an entire day, the SAF commandos fought gallantly until their ammunition and battered bodies ran out. And as they fought they screamed for the help that never came, the help that ran smack into an immovable obstacle that came under the most unusual name called peace process. If there was any consolation for the SAF 44 as they lay dying, it was the fact that they never knew they had been betrayed. To their last breath they entertained the thought that help was on the way.

It is the families who have been left behind who will have to contend for the rest of their lives with the sense of betrayal that they knew went all the way to the top. And that is a much more painful burden than even the loss of their loved ones. While no one can really prepare for what may happen, they knew that a knock on the door can always bring a dire possibility. At least in that, they were ready.

What they could never have prepared for was in knowing that their loved ones died because no help was forthcoming. In the investigations that followed -- and never completed to this day -- everybody was hemming and hawing and otherwise pretending to have nothing to do with the incident. But of course everyone knew where the buck has to eventually stop.

But no, the president, the commander-in-chief, and the human being who wore those shoes never had it in him -- never had the leadership, the responsibility, the dignity, the humaneness, the character, first to fight for his men, and then to even be there for them when they came home in coffins. Instead he found time to enjoy himself inspecting new cars at a foreign automotive facility. He had many occasions to say sorry, He had many occasions to say thanks. He never did.

During his State of the Nation Address last Monday, he had one final opportunity to say the things that needed to be said in respect and in honor of those who gave their lives in a mission that he was on top of from start to finish. He never did. Instead he thanked his yaya. That, I think, defines the man for what he is. But I cannot in conscience, as a Filipino, let it go. So, on behalf of a grateful nation, let me in my solitary smallness salute the sAF 44. Maraming Salamat sa inyo:

Sr. Insp. Ryan Ballesteros Pabalinas, Sr. Insp. John Garry Alcantara Erana, Sr. Insp. Max Jim Ramirez Tria, Sr. Insp. Cyrus Paleyan Anniban, Sr. Insp. Gednat G. Tabdi, Insp. Joey Sacristan Gamutan, Insp. Rennie Tayrus, SPO1 Lover L. Inocencio, PO3 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr., PO3 Virgel S. Villanueva, PO3 Andres Viernes Duque Jr.,  PO3 Vitoriano Nacion Acain, PO3 Noel Onangey Golocan, PO3 Junrel Narvas Kibete, PO3 Jed-In Abubakar Asjali;

PO3 Robert Dommolog Aliaga, PO3 John Lloyd Rebammonte Sumbilla, PO2 Amman Misuari Esmulla, PO2 Peterson I. Carap, PO2 Roger C. Cordero, PO2 Nicky DC Nacino Jr., PO2 Glenn Berecio Badua, PO2 Chum Goc-Ong Agabon, PO2 Richelle Salangan Baluga, PO2 Noel Nebrida Balaca, PO2 Joel Bimidang Dulnuan, PO2 Godofredo Basak Cabanlet,  PO2 Franklin Cadap Danao, PO2 Walner Faustino Danao, PO2 Jerry Dailay Kayob;

PO2 Noble Sungay Kiangan, PO2 Ephraim G. Mejia, PO2 Omar Agacer Nacionales, PO2 Rodel Eva Ramacula, PO2 Romeo Valles Senin II, PO1 Russel Bawaan Bilog, PO1 Angel C. Kodiamat, PO1 Windell Llano Candano, PO1 Loreto Guyab Capinding, PO1 Gringo Charag Cayang-o, PO1 Romeo Cumanoy Cempron, PO1 Mark Lory Orloque Clemencio, PO1 Joseph Gumatay Sagonoy, PO1 Oliebeth Ligutan Viernes.

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