THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has placed all its camps and military installations in a state of mourning to show sympathy and solidarity with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the bereaved families of 44 policemen killed in an encounter with the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao province on Sunday.
AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Tuesday directed the commanders of all the camps and installations to lower the Philippine flag at half-mast for five days.
“We mourn the loss of these brave policemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for our country. They fought heroically and they have not died in vain,” Catapang said.
Malacanang said President Benigno Aquino 3rd is considering declaring a “National Day of Mourning” for the slain policemen.
In a text message, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino “has instructed the DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] and the PNP to study all options to honor the fallen heroes of the Mamapasano Incident.”
Mamapasano is the town in Maguindanao where the clash took place.
Lacierda’s statement came amid some lawmakers’ call to declare a “National Day of Mourning” for the slain police officers.
Aquino will deliver a message on the incident at 6:30 p.m. today. The remains of 44 police commandos killed in the deadly firefight are now in the custody of the military in southern Philippines.
“A total of 44 bodies (of slain SAF members) are now at the 6th Infantry Division,” Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, an Army spokesperson, told The Manila Times by phone from Maguindanao.
The MILF reported that 64 members of the PNP Special Action Force pursuing terrorist Basit Usman and Jemaah Islamiya bomber Zulkifli bin Hir were killed in the weekend battle after the commandos raided the remote village of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano town where their targets were reportedly hiding.
The area, it turned out, is the MILF’s 105th Base Command.
The PNP, however, maintained that only 44 SAF commandos were killed in the fighting.
Nearly a battalion of police commandos was involved in the pre-dawn operation.
Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan said he was not informed by the police about the SAF operation.