Sinas: Justice has been served to ‘SAF 44’

Philippine National Police chief Police Gen. Debold Sinas said Monday that justice has already been served to the 44 commandos of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) who died in the operation to get a Malaysian bomb expert who had been training local terror groups in urban terrorism six years ago.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Debold Sinas held his first command visit to Police Regional Office (PRO-7) Central Visayas were at least 2,000 loose and seized firearms from police operations and New Peoples Army (NPA) surrenderees were presented in Camp Sergio Osmena Cebu City on Saturday. Sinas was once the Regional Director of PRO-7 for One year and four months. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela / MANILA BULLETIN)
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Debold Sinas
(Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I believe that our Special Action Force (SAF) is there, all the assistance and benefits have already been given so we let history decide on its effect. But personally, I believe justice was already served for them,” said Sinas during an interview after the 6th National Day of Remembrance for the SAF 44 in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Forty-four SAF commandos were killed during the execution of the months-long preparation to get Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and local terror leader Abdul Basit Usman who were monitored to be hiding inside a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The operation was dubbed as “Oplan: Exodus,” an operation that was mapped out through years of intelligence buildup initiated by then PNP chief Police Gen. Alan L.M. Purisima even before he became the top cop.

The plan was carried out on Jan. 25, 2015 after at least two failures that resulted in the PNP distrusting its military counterpart.

The SAF commandos were able to kill Marwan but failed to get Usman, who was later killed allegedly by MILF rebels for the incident which affected the supposed smooth peace agreement between the Aquino administration and the MILF.

But on their way out of the area, a shootout occurred which eventually trapped 45 SAF commandos. Of the 45, only one of them survived after swimming on a creek and hiding on bushes on his way out.

After the incident, then SAF Director Police Major Gen. Getulio Napeñas and his deputy, retired Police Brig. Gen. Noli Taliño, blamed the military who failed to grant their request for backup.

The military, on the other hand, accused the two of not coordinating their entry in the area.

Napeñas ran for senator after his retirement using the justice for SAF commandos as one of his platforms but lost.

The Board of Inquiry then led by Police Major Gen. Benjamin Magalong emphasized the violation of the chain of command as high as the level of President Aquino, being the commander-in-chief.

Aquino said that he asked Purisima to coordinate his actions to the military but Purisima apparently did not do it.

Of the 44 SAF commandos, only two were awarded with the police equivalent of the Medal of Valor during the Aquino administration but President Duterte awarded the same to the remaining 42.

Millions of cash assistance was given to the families of the SAF 44 while scholarship grants and free housing were also awarded.

Sinas said the Day of Remembrance for the SAF commando is aimed at regularly reminding the policemen of the gallantry of the SAF 44. He, however, said that the challenge on the problem of terrorism still remains.