Camp Crame gate blooms with flowers
At the Edsa gate of the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, countless pedestrians and passersby expressed their grief by way of flowers and lit candles.
Since Wednesday, anonymous mourners have been leaving flowers at the PNP gate as a tribute to the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in intense fighting with Moro rebels on Sunday. At night, both sides of Gate 1 are lit with the yellow glow of candles as ordinary folk join the PNP in grieving their dead.
Flags have been hoisted at half-staff at the PNP headquarters since Monday, as police officers appear subdued and visibly affected by the death of their own.
One police official confessed to being torn between feeling elated about a successful operation in Quezon City, and sharing the grief of his colleagues.
“We are in mourning, all of us,” he said.
Other police officers chose to wear their sentiments on their sleeves, wrapping their badges in black ribbons or wearing black armbands.
Some also took to Facebook, where they replaced their profile photos with either the SAF logo emblazoned with the word “Tagapagligtas,” or a photo of their badge adorned with a black ribbon.
A Facebook page, “Justice for SAF troopers, justice for all,” created a day after the bloody encounter on Sunday, has become a sounding board for police and civilians alike who share their grief and outrage over the incident.
A recent post read: “Sino na ang magliligtas sa mga Tagapagligtas? Pakisagot, please” (Who will save the savior? We need answers, please).”
In Baguio City, the oldest Chinese temples in the country began on Thursday a five-day prayer session for the dead, including the police officers killed in the Maguindanao clash.
The prayers are part of the annual “poh toh,” where members of 14 chapters of the Bell Church abroad gather to pray and help send the souls of the departed on a peaceful journey to the afterlife.
Some of the participants this year hail from Mindanao.
Felisa Wong, 78, a native of Zamboanga City, offered her share of prayers at a ceremony led by a church leader, Rev. Elias Ng, whose father, Ng Pee, founded the church.
“I feel for the family [of the slain policemen] and we will pray for them,” Wong said.
She used to live in Jolo town, Sulu province, for 14 years and had witnessed the impact of war and violence on ordinary people, Wong said, adding that she prays for peace in Mindanao and for an end to the enmity between Christians and Muslims.
The slaying of the 44 SAF men drew mixed reactions from people here, with radio stations airing comments from people on the streets. Some listeners called for an “all-out war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as several of the fatalities were policemen from the Cordillera provinces.
“The (slain policemen) had a mission, and they completed it, so they may now return to the afterlife,” said Ng.
In Pampanga province, policemen and civilian employees in Camp Olivas, the Central Luzon regional police’s headquarters, wore black armbands to mourn the death of the SAF men.
Police in Central Luzon also raised the Philippine flag at half-staff to hail the bravery and heroism of the fallen heroes, Chief Supt. Ronald Santos, regional police director, said in a statement.
In an interview, Santos said the remains of three of the slain SAF men would be taken to their families in the provinces of Bataan, Aurora and Bulacan on Friday. With reports by Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon