IGNORING warnings from the Quezon City local government, hundreds of people braved the heat on Sunday to join a sympathy walk from Camp Crame to a church, instead of the Quezon City Memorial Circle as planned, to commemorate the 44th day of the Fallen 44.
Led by activist and running priest Robert Reyes, the “March for Justice for SAF 44” commenced with a 44-kilometer “Sympathy Run” from Dasmariñas, Cavite, around 1 a.m. on Sunday participated by some graduates from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). They reached the police headquarters in Camp Crame at 7 a.m. and were joined by family members of the 44 slain police commandos.
The activity was supposed to end at the Quezon City Memorial Circle but the city government revoked the group’s assembly permit on Thursday, March 5.
Retired Police General Elmo San Diego, head of the city government’s Department of Public Order and Safety, told The Manila Times that local policemen observed maximum tolerance during the event.
Among those who joined the march were Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption Chairman Dante Jimenez and former Land Transportation Office chief Rey Beroya.
San Diego said the event was peaceful.
Carrying streamers with “Walk with the Widows, Run for the Heroes” slogans, participants carried 44 Philippine flags, representing the fallen SAF commandos.
The group ended the march at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish at Claret School, where Reyes officiated a Holy Mass.
In his homily, Reyes claimed that a PNPA alumnus discouraged other graduates from joining the run. He said this is “a sure sign” of pressure from police and government higher-ups to make the “Sympathy Run” fail to gather a big crowd.
“There’s politics involved,” said the priest, who accused the government of pressuring officials in Camp Crame to boycott the walk. He pointed out that since many police officials in Camp Crame are mere officers in charge, they are more cautious of their actions for fear they might be sacked.
On the other end, retired Gen. Tomas Rentoy 3rd, chairman of the PNP Academy Alumni Association Inc., said more PNP personnel were supposed to join the sympathy walk. But they allegedly got a text message from Senior Supt. Jerome Baxinela, also the president of PNPAAAI-Camp Crame Chapter, discouraging them to participate.
Rentoy said the board of trustees is planning to file a disciplinary action against Baxinela.
According to the walk organizers, similar “March for Justice for SAF 44” events were held nationwide on Sunday.