BEFORE it becomes just another leaf in the nation’s history, the 16th Congress should make January 25 a day of nationwide remembrance in this country. Congress should call it National Service Day to honor the service and spirit of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who went on a mission to Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015, and did not return to tell their story – because they were massacred by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other rebel forces.
It is now five months to the day when the 44 met their tragic end in Mamasapano. Yet up to now the Aquino government and Congress are at a loss on how to honor the dead and perpetuate their memory. They cannot even decide on how to record and report properly what happened on that fateful day.
The Senate conducted a much-ballyhooed inquiry into the incident, but the committee chair, with full approval by the Senate president, unilaterally decided not to write a committee report. Instead, she announced by press release an executive summary of a report that does not exist.
The House of Representatives also conducted its own inquiry into the incident, rounding up even more witnesses and resource persons. Its hearings were so spirited they sometimes broke into shouting matches among the nation’s representatives. The proceedings got so unruly the hearings were aborted, only to be revived again with a little more order and decorum. It is even more unlikely that the House committees that conducted the hearings will write a committee report and submit their findings and recommendations. The televised hearings did not evidence any real leadership and direction in the proceedings.
As time passes, laziness takes over everything.
There is a sense of forgetfulness that permeates the legislative and executive branches of government whenever the subject of Mamasapano comes up. President Aquino does not want to remember what happened that day, because it also recalls what he as president failed to do. Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. want the nation to move on, because their whole careers as congressional leaders have been built on railroading executive requests. Judging by their discomfiture during the hearings, top officers of our armed and police forces would be just as eager to move on.
This collective forgetting is tragic for our people and our nation. It’s time for the Philippines to grow up and learn that history is not served by turning your back on it. And that a sad day in the nation’s history is not surmounted by forgetting it.
To the contrary, we will transcend the tragedy by remembering and perpetuating the memory of the SAF 44.
By using its powers to set aside this day for national remembrance, Congress can make amends for its lapses of focus and resolution in its inquiries into the incident.
By passing this law before the body formally and finally adjourns in June 2016, Congress can offer a fitting tribute and recognition to the SAF 44.
A day for “Nationwide Remembrance” is fitting because the SAF 44 came from many parts of the country. In a sense, each region has a share in the lives that were lost in that fateful mission.
Designating it as “A day of national service” is also fitting because by this, we shall honor the spirit of service of the 44. We turn their sacrifice into a model of national service for others to follow. In time, January 25 can evolve into a day when citizens will ask themselves, how can I be of help or service to our people and our country?
We honor and repay the sacrifice of the 44 by tending to the welfare of their families. That is easy enough for government to do. We can honor them even more by making January 25 a day when we the people – in our respective ways – give something of ourselves to the nation.
And thus will the memory of the SAF 44 survive the vicissitudes of time and our weary sense of national history.