IT is fitting and it is high time that Congress moves to assert its authority in demanding the conferment of the Medal of Valor on the SAF commandos involved in the Mamasapano incident last January 25
In a rare show of unity and resolve, the House of Representatives of Congress, comprising both the majority and minority blocs, has demanded that the Aquino administration should fast-track the conferment of the Medal of Valor, the highest award of the Philippine National Police, on the 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force troopers who were killed in and who survived the incident in Mamasapano.
The same demand has also been issued in the Senate, where Sen. Ralph Recto, Senate President Protempore, contended that the top award should be conferred on the slain SAF 44 commandos and other SAF troopers who figured prominently in the incident in different capacities.
Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, House independent bloc leader, led the House demand for recognition of the commandos in order to memorialize their act of heroism and to boost the morale of the entire police force.
His proposal was immediately seconded by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Alfred Vargas.
Other representatives will surely join the clamor.
Other senators will join Recto in expressing the sense of the Senate on the issue.
Under Republic Act 9049, a Medal of Valor awardee is entitled to a lifetime monthly gratuity of P20,000. The children of an awardee shall also be given scholarships to the Philippine Military Academy or the Philippine National Police Academy and are given priority if they want to work for the government.
Honor the dead
These rewards are fine so far as they go; but more urgent and significant is the full recognition by the government and the nation of the sacrifice and heroism of the SAF troopers, particularly those who perished in the tragic encounter. For this is the sphere where honor lies.
It is good that both houses of Congress have taken cognizance of the issue and phrased their proposal as a demand, because the administration, notably President Aquino and the DILG and PNP command, have been sluggish in moving on the matter.
Congress should assert its will and resolve on the issue. The President can try to block a congressional decision to confer the medals at his own peril. He will not find support but scorn from the people for denying the SAF commandos what is due them.
It is now nearly eight months to the day when the SAF 44 met their tragic end in Mamasapano. And yet up to now our government is still at a loss on how to honor the dead and perpetuate their memory. President Aquino seems more obsessed with writing his own version of the Mamasapano story.
The Senate conducted a much-ballyhoed inquiry into the incident, but the committee chair, Sen. Grace Poe, foolishly and unilaterally decided not to write a committee report, preferring to publicize herself instead.
The House of Representatives also conducted its own inquiry into the incident, rounding up even more witnesses and resource persons. But the House committees that conducted the hearings still have to produce their committee reports.
As time passes, laziness takes over everything.
The nation must reject the sense of sloth and forgetfulness that permeates the government whenever the subject of Mamasapano comes up. It must not yield to President Aquino’s desire that the nation not remember what happened on that fateful day.
Conferring the medal of valor by legislative action is the most effective way to fight this deadening process of collective forgetting. For this way we honor heroism and sacrifice for people and country.
Some of our leaders say that we must move on from Mamasapano. But the ineluctable truth is this: we will transcend the tragedy in Mamasapano by honoring and remembering the SAF 44.
By using its powers to confer he medal of valor on them, Congress can correct a mistake and make amends for its lapses of focus, resolution and caring in dealing with the tragedy.