‘Fallen 44’ families walk for justice

MANILA. Family and supporters hold some of the pictures of the 44 police commandos killed during a recent operation against Southeast Asia's top terrorist suspect Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, as they join a "Sympathy Walk" in Quezon City on Sunday, March 8, 2015. (AP)

MANILA -- Families of 44 Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who were killed in an anti-terror drive in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 repeated their call for justice, 44 days after the incident.

Erica Pabalinas, wife of Chief Inspector Ryan Pabalinas, said Sunday it is difficult for the bereaved families to understand "why and how is justice being unselfishly served and delivered to those who needed it."

She called on President Benigno Aquino III to make good on promise to find the perpetrators so that they can face cases in court.

“It has been 44 days and each day has not been easier. We wake up to the reality that 44 days since their deaths that we are not closer to knowing the truth behind their deaths,” Erica said in a speech at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish inside Claret School, Quezon City.

Pabalinas said that no amount of money can ease the pain of losing a husband and for seeing her children grow without a father to guide them.

“We want the government and our national leaders to know that we do not want blood money. We don’t want blood money for the deaths of our husbands. We families of the 44 men, seek one thing, for the truth and justice to be served,” she said.

Malacañang assured that whoever would be found liable in the bloody incident would be charged.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the statement as the public awaits the result of the investigation conducted by the police Board of Inquiry into the January 25 operation to arrest bomb-making experts Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman.

Marwan was killed in the raid but the operation cost the lives of 44 police commandos who battled combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters while retreating from the terrorist's hideout.

"Sisiguruhin po ng pamahalaan ‘yung paggawad ng ganap na katarungan, at ayon nga po sa ating sistemang sinusunod at tinataguyod, ang simbolo po ng katarungan sa ating bansa ay isang babaeng nakapiring. Kaya katulad ng iyong nabanggit, wala po itong kinikilala at walang sinisino, basta po kailangang lumitaw ang katotohanan at magawaran ng katarungan ang ating mga SAF 44 troopers," Coloma said in an interview with dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

He said the findings of the BOI, expected to be received by Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II on Monday, would be made public and the MILF could also get a copy.

"Hindi naman kailangang humingi pa ng partikular na kopya ang mga grupo o indibidwal dahil isasapubliko po ito at ilalathala nang malawakan," Coloma said.

The Palace official said justice will be pursued with or without inputs from the MILF, which earlier said that only the executive summary of the result of its own investigation into the incident would be provided to the government.

Quoting Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, he said that it is the Philippine government, through the Department of Justice, which will do the case build up and pursue justice through Philippine courts based on its own finding.

Erica, together with the rest of the Pabalinas family, joined the march organized by the members of the PNP Academy.

Led by activist priest Father Robert Reyes, the first batch of marchers from Dasmariñas City, Cavite met with the second batch composed of families of slain SAF commandos in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

From the PNP headquarters, the groups walked toward Claret School to hear a mass to mark the 40th day of mourning for the killings.

The mass was supposed to be held at the Quezon Memorial Circle, a public park, but the Quezon City government recalled the permit the night before the activity.

Reyes questioned this decision in his homily, saying there is nothing wrong with "expressing anger as long as it does not compromise other individuals' safety." (SDR/Sunnex)
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