Justice sought as Filipinos mourn 44 fallen SAF members

Thea Alberto-Masakayan
Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom
A policewoman wipes her tears as she stands in front of metal caskets containing the bodies of Special Action Force (SAF) police who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, at Villamor Air Base in Pasay city, metro Manila January 29, 2015. Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Calls for justice for the 44 fallen members of the Special Action Force (SAF) grow louder as Malacanang implements a National Day of Mourning.

Members of the Philippine National Police marched for justice while government officials wore black armbands as probe on the brutal slay of the SAF men continues. As part of National Day of Mourning, flags at all public and military institutions are also at half-mast.

At least 44 policemen perished in what authorities said was 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.

During the necrological services at Camp Bagong Diwa, commanding officers tell of the perils of being part of the elite force and vowed to never forget slain policemen’s sacrifice.

Colonel Danilo Pamonag of the Philippine army said the fallen 44 "will never be just a number; you will always be our comrades.”







Members of the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) unit carry metal caskets containing the bodies of slain SAF police who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, upon arriving at Villamor Air Base in Pasay city, metro Manila January 29, 2015. Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace.A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)



“We know of three constants: Victory. Defeat. Death. For both sides, death is a constant. Such is our life in the pursuit of peace. We don’t claim to be fearless, we can only stand courageous,” Pamonag added.

Chief Inspector Victor Lacwasan of SAF meanwhile recalled meeting some of the slain young men and proudly introduced SAF.

"Kami po ang inyong SAF. Marami pong salamat sa inyong pakikidalamhati at maraming salamat sa inyong pagmamahal."

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who drew flak Thursday for skipping the arrival honors for the fallen heroes at Villamor Air base to attend a car plant opening in Sta. Rosa, was also at the necrological services. He however arrived late.

Aquino approached each casket, offered prayers, and presented a Medal of Valor, the highest military honor, to the widows and relatives of the slain SAF men.

Also at the necrological services were Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP Deputy Director Leonardo Espina. Some of Aquino’s sisters were also seen.











Online outrage

On social networking site Twitter, topics on #Fallen44 and #SAF44 were on top of the trending list. It was followed by #Nasaanangpangulo.

Filipinos, young and old, took to Twitter to offer their condolences for the bereaved families.