PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. led on Thursday, January 25, 2024, the National Day of Remembrance of the Heroic Sacrifice of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who were killed in the infamous Mamasapano encounter nine years ago.
In his speech, Marcos honored the heroism of the 44 SAF troopers and urged Filipinos to draw inspiration from them in defending the country’s sovereignty.
He said among the important lessons that the SAF 44 left in their last hours were to put the nation before self, to display courage under fire, to resolve to forge ahead, and to never give up.
“We would also be disrespecting their memory if we give quarters to those who terrorize our people. We would be devaluing their valor if we cede our territory to those who would trespass upon it,” Marcos said during the National Day of Remembrance of the Heroic Sacrifice of the SAF 44 held in Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite.
“Although fighting machines they were, they were not apostles of permanent war. They were warriors for peace who wanted to see the day when swords were pounded into plowshares,” he added.
Marcos said the death of the SAF 44 in order to defend the country against terrorism is a “debt that we will never be able to pay” and an “obligation that we will never extinguish no matter how often we give meaning to their valor.”
“So how do we pay homage to these brave men, whose gallantry no memorial can fully capture, whose courage no words can fully extol? It is by working tirelessly to realize their dreams, for their families, for their children, for their comrades, for the people," he said.
The SAF men were killed following an encounter with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano in Maguindanao, during an operation against Malaysian terrorist and bomb-expert, Zulkifli Bin Hir and Abdul Basit Usman.
Although the operation was considered successful as Bin Hir was killed, it cost the life of 44 SAF troopers.
Usman was able to escape but was killed in an encounter in Guindulungan, Maguindanao in May 2015.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr. said he is hoping that the sacrifices of the SAF 44 will serve as an inspiration for the people to continue advocating for peace and justice.
“The Mamasapano incident stands as a stark reminder of the challenges and risks our law enforcement officers face daily in the pursuit of safeguarding our nation and its citizens. The memory of our fallen heroes leaves an enduring imprint on our history and their sacrifice will be forever etched in our hearts,” he said.
“While we can never bring back the lives they have given, may their sacrifice serve as a challenge to us all, a challenge to continue their heroism, to embody greatness and to act with honor and love for our country,” he added.
Nine years after, retired General Getulio Napeñas Jr., the SAF director when the encounter happened, said justice is yet to be served for the SAF 44 and their bereaved families considering that no charges have been filed yet against the perpetrators of what he tagged as a “massacre.”
"I would like to see now mafile-an ng kaso 'yung mga pumatay, kasi pinatay nila, murder 'yun, minasaker nila, may buhay pa pinapatay (I would like to see the killers charged because they killed, that's murder, they massacred, they killed someone who was still alive)…Do you think justice has been served na hindi nafile-an ng kaso 'yung mga 'yun?" he said in an interview with reporters following the event.
For his part, current SAF director Bernard Banac said justice was “triumphant” for the SAF 44, noting that it led to a more peaceful and orderly nation.
“Bahagi sila at naging dahilan upang tayong lahat ngayon ay may tinatamasang kapayapaan at kaayusan (They were part and were the reasons behind the peace and order that we all enjoy today),” he said. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)