Highest honors sought for 5 slain SAF troops

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HAIL TO THE CHIEF Rojan Senin, son of PO3 Romeo Senin, one of the Special Action Force troopers killed in the Mamasapano incident, executes a salute as he sits on the lap of PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina.  PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

HAIL TO THE CHIEF Rojan Senin, son of PO3 Romeo Senin, one of the Special Action Force troopers killed in the Mamasapano incident, executes a salute as he sits on the lap of PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina.
PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is recommending the highest honors for five police commandos who were among the 44 killed during a high-risk operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25.

Being recommended for the Medalya ng Kagitingan (Medal of Valor) by the PNP Special Awards Promotions and Decorations Board (SAPB) were Senior Inspectors John Garry Erana and Gednat Tabdi, Senior Police Officer 4 Bill Fernando Jumalon, Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan and PO2 Romeo Cempron.

They were part of a team of Special Action Force (SAF) troops who were sent out for “Oplan [Operation Plan]: Exodus” to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli Bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino protege Abdul Basit Usman.

Marwan was reportedly killed in an ensuing gunbattle but members of SAF’s 55th Special Action Company were trapped after engaging combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and lawless groups active in the area.


When the firefight was over, 44 police commandos, 17 MILF rebels and seven civilians lay dead.

“Oplan: Exodus” was reportedly planned and was allegedly commanded by then- suspended PNP chief, Alan Purisima, with the knowledge of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

A few days after the incident, Purisima tendered his resignation, which was accepted by
President Aquino.

The PNP-Board of Inquiry (BOI), headed by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong, investigated the Mamasapano incident.

In March, it released its findings that showed the President, Purisima and sacked SAF chief Getulio Napenas had violated the chain of command of the PNP.

The board also found that “Oplan: Exodus” was launched by the SAF without informing the then-PNP officer-in-charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd.

The Mamasapano incident resulted in a deep political crisis for the Aquino administration that nearly scuttled the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which the government hopes to pass before Aquino steps down from power next year.

The BBL remains pending before the Senate as two of its members–Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago–are questioning its constitutionality.

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