Palace denies Aquino ordered removal of SAF 44 mural
MALACAÑANG on Thursday denied claims that President Benigno Aquino III ordered the removal of the SAF (Special Action Force) 44 mural from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).
The piece of art was used as a backdrop during Vice President Jejomar Binay’s controversial speech at the PNPA last Monday.
SAF 44 is the collective term for the 44 policemen killed in an encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other armed groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January, during a covert operation to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.
While the group succeeded in killing Marwan, 44 policemen, 17 MILF fighters and at least three civilians died, allegedly because of poor planning and lack of coordination. Aquino has been blamed for the tragedy because he allegedly allowed then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to direct the operation.
In a statement, the Binay camp accused Aquino of ordering the removal of the painting allegedly “because too many visitors were takings photos or ‘selfies’ with the mural as backdrop.”
The mural served as a backdrop during Binay’s “True State of the Nation Address” (Tsona) on Monday.
But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it was the Erehwon Art Center, which owns the piece of art, that decided to retrieve the mural because the camp has no suitable place for it.
“They do not have a museum,” Coloma said of the PNPA, citing the report of Chief Superintendent Armand Ramolete.
“Walang batayan at walang katotohanan iyong sinasabing merong partisipasyon ang Tanggapan ng Pangulo hinggil sa mural na ito,” she said.
(There is no basis and no truth that the Office of the President has anything to do with the removal of the mural.)
Coloma added that the administrator of the PNPA, Philippine Public Safety College President General Ricardo de Leon, pointed out that there is already a statue that honors the SAF 44 and it is located inside Camp Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite.
The statement from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) said sources claimed that Aquino was invited to unveil the mural called “Tagaligtas 44” earlier in the year but he “snubbed the event.”
In his place, Binay attended the inauguration.
The OVP pointed out that Aquino had failed to mention the SAF 44 in his State of the Nation Address last week.
On the other hand, Binay named the 44 men in his Tsona.
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