A solemn, heartbreaking arrival honors for SAF's fallen men

Thea Alberto-Masakayan
A solemn, heartbreaking arrival honors for SAF's fallen men

Even the toughest men couldn't hold their tears.

This was the scenario at Villamor Air base as the government gives arrival honors to the 42 fallen members of the Special Action Force.

At least 44 policemen perished in what authorities said were a "misencounter" with alleged members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom fighters at Mamasapano, Maguindanao while chasing high-ranking terrorists Zulkifli Abdhir and Basit Usman.

The 42 caskets, all draped with a Philippine flag, were slowly carried by marching pallbearers, from the C-130 plane to the Villamor Air base grounds. Two of those who died have already been buried in Zamboanga.

Some policemen and soldiers were seen on television desperately tying to hold back tears, as they give honors to their fallen comrades.

Officials such as Vice President Jejomar Binay, former president Fidel V. Ramos, Senator Bongbong Marcos and mother, Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos condoled with the policemen's bereaved families while priests blessed each casket.

The caskets were then placed in their respective funeral cars, to be brought to their families.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was expected to be at the arrival honors, was reportedly at the opening of a new plant of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

On Wednesday, Aquino addressed the nation and announced a national day of mourning, befitting the heroism of the slain policemen.

Aquino said he believes that while several Filipinos desire to avenge cops' death, he does not want to shake the peace process.

"Mararating natin ang katarungan, harinawa, sa loob ng tamang proseso, at nang hindi bumibitaw sa mga pangarap nating makamtan ang malawakan at pangmatagalang kapayapaan,” Aquino said.