Aquino surprises fallen SAF’s kin with one-stop welfare services
MANILA, Philippines–Still smarting from criticisms over the fierce Jan. 25 gun battle between police commandos and Moro rebels, President Aquino made a surprise visit Wednesday night to the Philippine National Police headquarters, to meet with the families of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
The President’s unscheduled trip to Camp Crame caught senior police officials by surprise as Malacañang had not made prior arrangements with the PNP security.
It was the first-ever, one-stop welfare services program where the bereaved families also linked up with private provincial donors and various government departments and agencies.
Accompanied by several Cabinet secretaries, Aquino immediately met with the relatives of the slain policemen at the PNP Multipurpose Center around 6 p.m.
He spent the first 20 minutes speaking with the family of PO2 Glenn Badua, who reportedly flew to Manila from Zamboanga City.
The event was originally set as a “one-stop shop” of welfare services for the relatives to follow up the concerns and requests they made during their initial meeting with the President on Jan. 30.
Unlike the first meeting, the media were allowed to cover Aquino’s conversation with the families.
A senior government official said the meeting with the families on Wednesday night was “evidently lighter and better than the first.”
“It’s expected because the grief and anger that the families felt were still high during the first meeting, which was held just a few days after the tragedy in Mamasapano,” the official told the Inquirer.
“Unlike their meeting at Camp Bagong Diwa, the President’s talk with the families was smoother and better,” he added.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesman, said the President wanted to make sure that the benefits due the fallen SAF troopers would be given to their kin as promised by the government.
Cerbo said the President also asked for the other concerns of the relatives of the police commandos.
“The President was updating the status of the distribution of benefits for our fallen heroes,” Cerbo told reporters.
Director Rolando Purugganan, PNP chief comptroller, said the families of each of the slain policemen had already received more than P1 million in financial assistance.
He said the amount included P250,000 from the Presidential Social Fund and at least P100,000 in death benefits from the PNP.
The families had also directly received financial assistance from private groups and individuals, he added.
“The cash benefits given to the families varied according to the rank and length of service of the SAF members who were killed in action,” Purugganan told the Inquirer.
He said the PNP also provided cash assistance to the 15 wounded SAF troopers who took part in the daring police operation to get wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan.”
A representative of the Commission on Higher Education said 12 children of the SAF troopers were recently found eligible for CHEd’s education assistance. A representative from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority said it was currently helping 19 families.
Roxas’ surprise visit
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who was allegedly left out in the planning and execution of the police operation dubbed “Oplan Exodus,” also made an unannounced visit to the wounded SAF troopers at the PNP General Hospital, also at Camp Crame, on Tuesday night.
A police official said Roxas spent “several hours” speaking to the wounded policemen.
He said Roxas also distributed P100,000 in cash assistance to the survivors of what could be the worst debacle of the PNP in recent years.–With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil
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