FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos, the founder of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), on Thursday led a special tribute to the 44 police commandos killed in “Oplan Exodus” on January 25.
‘Oplan Exodus’ is a covert operation launched by the SAF in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last month to get top Malaysian terror suspect, Zulkipli bin Hir alias ‘Marwan” and his Filipino protegee, Abdul Basit Usman.
Marwan was killed, but Usman was able to escape and is now the subject of a manhunt by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Oplan Exodus ended in disaster for the elite police officers who engaged combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in a day-long fierce gun battle.
Some of the police commandos were summarily executed, based on an uploaded video of a wounded police commando who was shot in the head at close range by a still unidentified MILF/BIFF fighter.
A video documentary titled “Tagaligtas” was shown at the multi-purpose hall in Camp Crame in Quezon City as a special tribute to the fallen 44 SAF men.
The documentary is an hour-long video showing the PNP-SAF in action.
Produced by former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan, it documents the crucial role of the elite police unit, which was founded by then-Philippine Constabulary chief, Maj. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos.
It showed the role of the PNP-SAF in securing the people from coups, insurgency, terrorism and crimes during the 1980s and 1990s.
Also present during the special tribute were former SAF members, such as Reynaldo Velasco, former chief of the National Capital Regional Police Office, who also shared some of his thoughts on the Mamasapano incident.
“The unfortunate incident brought fresh memories of the early 1970s when war in Mindanao was at its fiercest, where casualties and body counts from both sides including civilians, were far too many that I lost count as a young lieutenant,” Velasco said.
Velasco said in his speech that they are again offering their sincerest condolences to the families and relatives of the 44 commandos and prayers for their great loss.
“Mere words are not enough to assuage your grief, but we come to you with sincerest hearts to help in our own little way. Not only to help in bringing justice and providing some answers to your questions and doubts,” he added.
Alunan said during the program that he wept in grief for the tragic loss of the police officers “because the tragedy in Mamasapano was totally unnecessary.”
“Casualties could have been minimized with the proper and timely harnessing of leadership, hands-on mission management and of moral courage to do the right thing to save lives over and above the need to save a flawed process with a group that was killing our boys and with a long history of treachery, deceit and heinous crimes against humanity,” he added.