Changes made to prevent another Mamasapano incident: SAF chief

Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) director Maj. Gen. Bernabe Balba on Monday said continuous coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcers is one of the changes imposed to prevent another Mamasapano incident that claimed the lives of 44 SAF troopers six years ago.

“Well as usual, we continue our training of our personnel to improve some more. We always are coordinating with other units of the AFP and other law enforcement,” Balba told reporters during the National Day of Remembrance for the Gallant SAF 44 at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

Balba said the PNP-SAF has also been trying to improve its capability by acquiring more equipment and building more facilities.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the annual commemoration of the heroism of the 44 SAF troopers through Proclamation No. 164 signed on Feb. 21, 2017.

The 44 SAF commandos died in the line of duty in a botched police operation called “Oplan Exodus” against two high-value targets, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and terrorist Abdul Basit Usman on Jan. 25, 2015 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

The SAF commandos were able to kill Marwan but failed to get Usman, who was later killed in another operation.

Duterte’s proclamation said the memory of the SAF 44 “serves as a constant reminder of the continuing sacrifices made by our valiant uniformed men and women in the line of duty”.

PNP chief, Gen. Debold Sinas, together with Balba, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Major General Vicente Danao Jr., and DPWH Secretary Mark Villar led the wreath-laying ceremony for the commemoration of the heroic-death of the 44 SAF troopers.

Sinas said the PNP leadership ensures that the families of the 44 SAF troopers continue to receive the assistance, including scholarships from the national government.

“‘Yung nagumpisa tayo after nangyari sa kanila tinulungan po sila, inasistihan… tapos yung scholarship, ‘yung mga pabahay ay naibigay na po. Ngayon po ang ginagawa ng PNP headquarters ay minomonitor po na continue nila natanggap mga benepisyo at hindi napuputol (After what happened to them, we help and assisted the families. Then scholarships and housing benefits were given. Now, the PNP headquarters is monitoring if they received the benefits and to make sure these will continue),” Sinas said.

Sinas said he believes that justice has already been served for the SAF 44 but it was not the case for their families as they are seeking for the re-opening of trial against the personalities accountable for the botched anti-terror operation.

“Actually both sides naman ay may mga concerns hindi ba but I believe yung sa SAF naman ay nandiyan na, naibigay na natin yung lahat ng tulong at benepisyo at we let history decide kung ano po ang effect noon at personally ako maybe justice is served already sa kanila (Actually, both sides have concerns but I believe we have already extended all assistance and benefits and we le history decide what will be the effect of that and personally, I think, maybe justice is served already to them),” he said.

Danao, for his part, also acknowledged the gallantry shown by the 44 SAF troopers all over the world to preserve the peace and order.

“They became part of our history of exceptional dedication to duty, supreme, selfless service, and unqualified love of country amidst insurmountable obstacles. May our new generation of police officers emulate the bravery, patriotism and selflessness that our 44 heroes have shown,” Danao said.

In his speech, Villar recognized the exemplary bravery of the fallen SAF 44.

“Even though many years have gone by, the heavy pain that was brought by this tragic event, still occurs in our hearts and brain. We are once again united as one family to honor them who readily gave up their lives so that their fellowmen may live more safely and peacefully. I join the family members of our fallen troops in remembering and honoring their legacy and sacrifices for our country,” Villar said.

Speaking with reporters, Roselle Nacino, widow of SAF commando Nicky Nacino Jr., confirmed that her family continues to receive the help that the government had promised them.

“With regards to our benefits, okay naman po. ‘Yun naman pong pag-aaral ng anak ko nagagamit ko para (We’ve been getting our benefits. I used the money for my kid’s scholarship),” she said.

However, she is still seeking justice for her husband and the other SAF troops, hoping that the investigation of the case will be opened again.

“Siguro managot na lang po ‘yung mga dapat managot kasi malaki rin po kasi ‘yung napabayaan sila. Yun po ‘yung panawagan namin na sana naman po mabuksan po ulit ‘yung kaso ng SAF 44. Sa ngayon po kasi parang wala pong (legal efforts) sana mabigyan ulit ng pansin mabuksan ulit kasi since tinuring po natin silang mga bagong bayani ng bayan natin (Those responsible should face justice because they (SAF 44) have been neglected. Our appeal is to reopen the case. As of now there are no legal efforts to reinvestigate since they are considered heroes of the nation),” she said.

She also sought for the assistance of the PNP for the scholarship grant of their dependents.

Nacino said some schools were either not aware of the Republic Act (RA) 9049 or the act granting monthly gratuity and privileges to a medal of valor awardee or does not honor it.
Balba said he will speak with the families in order to know their concerns and assist them accordingly.

“Hindi ko pa nareceive. (I have not received their concerns). We will try to know about it and we will give our assistance kung papaano masolve sinasabi nilang (how to solve their) concerns,” Balba said.

In January last year, the Sandiganbayan acquitted former PNP chief Alan Purisima and ex-PNP SAF chief Getulio Napeñas of graft and usurpation charges over the botched operation due to lack of evidence. PNA.GOV.PH