Cempron, Tabdi: SAF 44’s men of valor
He was a policeman. She was a doctor. An unusual pair.
At first, PO2 Romeo Cempron thought it was a “suntok sa buwan (impossible)” to marry a doctor, said his widow Christine.
“We can never really underestimate the power of humor. It’s really powerful,” a laughing Christine told INQUIRER.net in a recent interview as she recounted how she developed feelings for Romeo.
After dating for six months, Romeo and Christine decided to get married.
“He had a gift. He gave that feeling na kapag nakilala mo siya, parang close na agad kayo,” she said.
Romeo was described by his colleagues at the 55th Special Action Company (SAC) in Zamboanga City as the “loudest” in their camp. He had a knack for cracking hilarious jokes.
Losing the loudest one in the group was difficult for the members of the unit. “It was like a ghost town here days after we learned about their deaths,” said one officer.
On Monday, the first anniversary of the Mamasapano tragedy, Romeo was awarded by President Aquino himself the Medal of Valor—the highest medal a police officer could ever receive.
Cempron distracted the enemy and took the bullet for PO2 Christopher Lalan, who became the lone survivor from 55th SAC.
As the wife of the late cop, Christine received the award for her husband.
The awarding of the posthumous Valor medal to Romeo didn’t go smooth for Christine.
In August last year, she flew to Manila from Cebu after she was informed that the President will give her husband the award during the 25th police service anniversary at Crame. She even bought a Filipiniana attire for the event.
When she arrived in Manila, she was told that the awarding would have to be postponed as the awards board had yet to finish their deliberation.
But a ranking police official told INQUIRER.net that it was an order from Malacañang to remove Cempron and survivor Supt. Raymund Train in the list “because the President didn’t want to remember the Mamasapano incident.”
The Malacañang and the PNP belied this claim and said the deliberation for Romeo’s award had yet to be finished.
In Benguet, the concrete walls of the house of the Tabdis were unpainted. Garcia, father of late Chief Inspector Gednat Tabdi, said his son promised to help the family finance their house renovation.
The father showed INQUIRER.net around their house which had three floors — the topmost storey of which was bare.
“Look at this floor. It’s bare. When Ged was still alive, he said he would help in renovating our house,” he said.
From their penthouse, one can see the famous strawberry field in La Trinidad where Garcia and his wife Edna sell strawberry products and all sorts of “pasalubong.”
Now the Tabdis will have to continue the renovation on their own.
On Monday morning, Cemprom and Gednat posthumously received the Medal of Valor in Camp Crame for their outstanding bravery and gallantry during the operation against Islamic terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015.
Gednat was given his first challenge on January 25 last year as the new commanding officer of the US-trained 84th SAC or Seaborne.
He may not have hurdled the challenge of bringing back his men home alive after taking down terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir or “Marwan” but Gednat dauntlessly led his team until his last breath.
Citing the account of survivors from Seaborne, SAF chief Director Moro Virgilio Lazo said Gednat continued to lead and motivate his men to get out of the target area and survive.
“Coming from Marwan’s hut, there were sporadic exchanges of gunfire as they exited toward the safe area. It reached a point na napagod na ‘yung ibang wounded lalo na yung situation na hindi expected kasi walang tulong na dumarating,” he said.
Besides his duty as a leader of the team, Gednat took over the roles of his heavily-wounded comrades and became the radioman, the navigator, and the lead scout.
Despite being in the safe area, Gednat was killed after a bullet pierced his Kevlar helmet.
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