Manila sets P5-M aid for kin of slain, wounded SAF men
The Manila City government is setting aside P5 million from its 2015 budget to help the families of the police commandos killed or wounded by Moro rebels in a recent operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
The city council on Friday passed a resolution approving the release of the amount from the funds of the Office of the Mayor as financial assistance to the families of the Special Action Force (SAF) members.
The resolution authorized Mayor Joseph Estrada to give P100,000 each to the families of the 44 SAF members who were killed and P50,000 each for the families of the 12 commandos who were wounded.
“We grieve the loss of 44 brave, noble men,” Estrada said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to their grieving families for their loss is immeasurable. And we will keep the memory of the SAF 44, our fallen heroes, ever alive in our hearts. Our nation owes you all a debt of gratitude.”
The mayor and former president was one of the government VIPs who went on Friday to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, where necrological services were held for the slain SAF men.
In the resolution, the council said it fully supported Estrada in extending the financial assistance. “The mayor, being the former president of the Republic of the Philippines and its commander in chief, firmly believes that every Filipino should honor the policemen for their heroism and sacrifice in the battlefield while performing their sworn duties, and express sympathy to their families,” they said.
On Jan. 25, close to 400 members of the elite police unit were sent to arrest two high-level terrorists—Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan,” and Filipino Basit Usman—in an operation that turned into a “misencounter” with Moro rebels.
During his short-lived presidency, Estrada launched an “all-out war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that forced the separatist group out of Camp Abu Bakkar, its main stronghold in Maguindanao.
Two days after the SAF debacle, the former president spoke at length about the approach he took. “For me, to achieve real peace in Mindanao and to avoid further bloodshed and incidents like this, we must end this immediately so that no more lives will be sacrificed.”
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, he recalled that he ordered the military to “go all-out” against the MILF in March 2000, after the rebels held hundreds of residents hostage in Kauswagan town, Lanao del Norte. “Before that, we gave the MILF an ultimatum of three to six months to back down. But they kept insisting on their demand for a substate.”
“On the fourth month, they took Kauswagan. I was angered so I declared an all-out war,” he said, noting that the campaign led to the capture of over a dozen major MILF camps and nearly 50 satellite camps.
He pointed out that the MILF had been engaged in a cycle of “peace talks, attacks and ceasefires for the last 40 years.”
“That’s still what they do now. Will you still trust them?” Estrada said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.