Malacañang on Saturday expressed hope that justice will prevail for the 44 Special Action Force troopers who were killed in a 2015 encounter with Moro combatants in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement on the anniversary of the incident.
“Today, January 25, is a Day of National Remembrance,” the Palace official said in a press statement.
“We continue to pray for the eternal repose of the souls of these valorous men in uniform who were recipients posthumously of the PNP Medal of Valor (Medalya ng Kagitingan) and hope that justice will finally come to give closure to these officers and their grieving families,” Panelo added.
On Feb. 21, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 164, declaring Jan. 25 of every year as “A Day of National Remembrance for the Heroic Sacrifice of the Fourty-Four Uniformed Personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Special Action Force.”
SAF commandos on Jan. 25, 2015 carried out a law enforcement operation against two high-value targets, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and terrorist Abdul Basit Usman. The botched operation, however, resulted in a firefight with Moro rebels.
The encounter claimed the lives of around 67 people, including 44 members of SAF and Marwan. Usman, on the other hand, was later killed in another operation.
Panelo said the current administration would ensure that there would be no repeat of such an incident.
“As we recall the tragedy that befell the PNP officers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao and pays homage to the bravery and heroism of the 44 members of the Special Action Force, collectively known as the Fallen SAF 44, let us learn and reflect from the mistakes of this botched police operation that it will never happen again,” he said.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of Senate justice committee, is eyeing an investigation into the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division’s move to dismiss the usurpation of authority and graft charges against former PNP chief Alan Purisima and former SAF head Getulio Napeñas.
The anti-graft court on Tuesday released a resolution, stating that the charges against Purisima and Napeñas were “insufficient to merit a conviction.”
The two were slapped with charges of graft and usurpation of official functions for their role in the bungled operation to neutralize Marwan and Usman.
In 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman under the leadership of Samuel Martires also withdrew the graft and usurpation of official functions cases against former President Benigno Aquino III who was initially indicted for “criminal negligence” during the time of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.