President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, April 17, led the awarding of Philippine National Police (PNP) Medal of Valor to 42 of PNP – Special Action Force (SAF) 44 who perished during the bloody Mamasapano encounter in 2015.
Only 42 were conferred the PNP Medal of Valor, as the two of them — P/CInsp Gednat Tabdi and PO2 Romeo Cempron — posthumously received the award during the Aquino administration.
All of the members of SAF 44 were posthumously awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Magalong Medal).
“Today, we pay tribute to the gallant troopers from the Special Action Force who gave their lives in Mamasapano a few years ago,” the President said during the awarding ceremony held at the Heroes Hall of Malacañan Palace.
“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,” he added.
The Chief Executive stressed that the tragic death of the police officers in the hands of enemies who outnumbered them and surrounded them from all sides may be one of the darkest and saddest parts of the nation’s history.
“Yet, this sad episode just proved that [through their] commitment to their sworn duty to protect our nation from terror and violence, they have successfully neutralized one of the world’s most wanted terrorists,” Duterte said.
“Indeed, the SAF 44 is not only a group of dedicated, capable and commendable police officers. They are also individuals worthy of emulation and admiration,” the President said.
Duterte said the government recognizes the SAF 44’s heroism so they may inspire other men and women in uniform to also demonstrate the values of service, honor and justice in all pursuits.
He also expressed hopes that this recognition will further invigorate police officers and military personnel to perform their duties with utmost dedication, excellence, loyalty and love of country.
At the same time, President Duterte assured the families of the fallen police commandos that the government is doing its best to ensure that their sacrifices will not go in vain.
“To the families of our fallen troops, I join you in remembering their legacy and honoring their memory,” he said.
In addition, the President vowed that the administration will continue to pursue welfare assistance programs such as housing projects, scholarships and employment opportunities that will benefit the families that the SAF troopers left behind.
“Most importantly, I assure you that we remain resolute in ensuring that justice—no matter how long it takes—will be served,” he said.
The Chief Executive acknowledged that the government still has a long way to go in the task of completely liberating the country from the ills that threaten its path to genuine and lasting peace and progress, but he also expressed confidence that the Philippines can succeed, citing the full support of the PNP in the efforts to maintain law and order.
The Magalong Medal is awarded to officials and personnel of the government and private individuals who have rendered extraordinary service or have made exceptional contributions to the success of an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the President.
The PNP Medal of Valor, which is the highest award of the PNP, is awarded to any member of the PNP who have performed in action a deed of personal bravery and self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty so conspicuous as to distinguish himself clearly above his comrades in the performance of more than ordinary hazardous service, according to a National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) memorandum circular.
The award may be given only if the enemy force is so overwhelming as compared to the government troops.
SAF 44 engaged in a nine-hour gun battle when they implemented Oplan Exodus to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman on January 25, 2015 at Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano in Maguindanao province.