‘Don’t give up,’ commander tells SAF, families
MANILA, Philippines – In grief, the acting commander of the Philippine National Police's (PNP) elite force urged his troops not to quit or give up.
“Let us not quit, let us not give up. Let us continue the fight,” Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) said during his Friday, January 30 eulogy for 44 of his men slain during an encounter with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.
The 44 SAF troopers died on Sunday, January 25 in a botched extraction attempt following the supposedly successful kill of bomb maker Zulkifli Abdhir, better known as "Marwan,” the target of the operation. Forty two of the 44 arrived in Manila on Thursday, January 29 and will be resting at Camp Bagong Diwa until Saturday, January 31.
Taliño, who took over the SAF following the relief of its commander Police Director Getulio Napeñas Jr., had one request on behalf of the 44 fallen heroes.
“Tulungan natin sila, let us take care and help their families, let us also take care of SAF (Let’s help them by taking care of their families, taking care of SAF).”
The police general had the same message for the surviving families of the 44: “Don’t quit, don’t give up.”
During his 13-minute eulogy, the police general paused several times, seemingly holding back his emotions. The bloodbath in Mamasapano is the worst in the PNP’s history.
Taliño also admitted to feeling guilty over the death of the 44 young men, having been unable to give enough support to the beleaguered troops at the right time. But in the end, Taliño said, the deaths of the young men were not in vain.
“If you will ask them it is worth it dahil mas maraming buhay ang maisasalba at maililigtas noong nawala si Marwan (more lives were saved when Marwan was killed) and we live by our motto Tagaligtas,” he added.
In defense of Napeñas
During the eulogy, Taliño also defended his suspended superior, adding Napeñas was “a good man.” “We thank him for giving SAF much needed leadership. Sana maayos lahat at makabalik siya (I hope everything is sorted out and he comes back),” said the police general.
Napeñas was suspended pending the PNP’s investigation into the Mamasapano incident. The PNP’s Board of Inquiry will have a month to come out with their findings. Government promised justice would be given to the fallen 44.
Almost a week after the tragic encounter in Maguindanao, many questions linger. The chain of command for the now-controversial operation remains unclear. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and PNP OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said they were left out of the loop.
Espina only found out about the operation when the SAF troopers were already inside MILF/BIFF territory. President Benigno Aquino III himself said he was in direct coordination with Napeñas prior to the operation. The President, however, did not categorically say who was calling the shots aside from SAF officials.
Several sources told Rappler that Napeñas later admitted to Roxas that he was receiving orders and relaying information to suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima during the operation. Purisima and Aquino are close friends, with the President acting as the general's biggest defender in the face of corruption allegations against him.
The President said the PNP’s investigation includes finding out why top officials were kept in the dark.
Many hard questions need to be answered but for now, Taliño wants to honor his men.
“These are the men and women in the SAF... dedicated officers, troopers, who know how to die,” said Taliño, to the cheers of SAF troopers in Camp Bagong Diwa. – Rappler.com