MANILA

SAF 44 families push enforcement of scholarships, other privileges

THE families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who were killed in an operation against bomb experts in Mamasapano, Maguindanao have sought the assistance of Philippine National Police (PNP) in pushing for the enforcement of a law granting scholarships and other benefits to medal of valor awardees and their dependents.

Roselle Nacino, widow of Police Officer 2 Nicky De Castro Nacino Jr., said some schools either choose to not honor or are not aware of Republic Act (RA) 9049.

This law grants monthly gratuity and privileges to a medal of valor awardee, and his or her dependents.

Nacino said she had difficulty enrolling her child and claiming the benefits due them.

“Ang main concern ko lang po kasi hindi lahat ng school aware po sila doon sa RA 9049 yun po kasing ibang school hindi po tinatanggap nahirapan po kami na maipasok po kaagad ‘yung bata,” she said at the sidelines of the commemoration of the 6th anniversary of the bloody Mamasapano operation.

“Ang kinasama ng loob ko na parang ito ba ‘yung sinasabi nila (na benefits)? Masakit po kasi sakin na tanggihan ‘yung bata pero yun pong first school n’ya wala pong problema tinanggap po siya agad ‘yung sa pre-school niya nahirapan po ako dito sa kinder niya,” she added.

Nacino hoped that the PNP could create a group that will enforce the law.

SAF Director Bernabe Balba said he will meet with the families to determine their concerns and assist them accordingly.

The 44 SAF troopers who died in Mamasapano on January 25, 2015 were medal of valor awardees.

Under RA 9049, medal of valor awardees and their dependents are exempted from pament of tuition and other school fees for pre-school to post-graduate courses in public and private schools.

They are also entitled to 20 percent discount on transportation services, hotels, restaurants, recreation and sport centers, and medicine purchases.

Other benefits are free medical and dental services and consultation in hospitals and clinics across the country.

The SAF men were killed in an encounter with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The SAF operation was conducted against Malaysian terrorist and bomb-expert Zulkifli Bin Hir and Abdul Basit Usman.

Bin Hir was killed while Usman escaped, although he was also killed in an encounter in Guindulungan, Maguindanao in May 2015.

PNP Chief Debold Sinas, who led the wreath-laying ceremony Monday, said justice has already been served for the SAF 44.

The families, however, are seeking the reopening of the case against the personalities accountable for the operation.

“Yun po ang panawagan namin sana naman po mabuksan ulit ‘yung kaso ng SAF 44. Sa ngayon po kasi parang wala pong (legal efforts),” said Nacino.

In January 2020, the Sandiganbayan dismissed for lack of probable cause the graft and usurpation of functions complaints against former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF director Getulio Napeñas, who had planned and led the operation dubbed Oplan Exodus.

In 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman withdrew the similar complaints filed against former president Benigno Aquino III, who gave Purisima the authority to lead the operation even though the latter was suspended at the time over corruption issues.


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