SAF widows’ questions still unanswered
TUBA, BENGUET—Some widows and loved ones of 44 elite policemen who were killed in an operation to get international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” had come to Malacañang on the eve of the second anniversary of the policemen’s deaths expecting answers.
They left with more questions. The biggest of these was whether there was an order for government forces to stand down as the 44 policemen were being mowed down by gunfire and, if there is, who gave that order?
One of the widows, Christine Kiangan, wife of PO3 Noble Kiangan, one of the 44 policemen killed, said she and the other widows had expected answers when they met President Duterte in Malacañang on Jan. 24, eve of the second anniversary of the killings of the 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who are now collectively known as SAF 44.
The 44 SAF men were massacred in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, 2015 as they took part in an operation to capture or kill Marwan.
On Saturday, widows from the Cordillera held a reunion at the Badiwan Hobbitat here where fruit trees in honor of their husbands had been planted.
The widows left the meeting with Mr. Duterte with unanswered questions still that prevent families of the SAF 44 from moving on, Kiangan said.
Senate and Philippine National Police investigation results said poorly coordinated maneuvers and miscommunication between the police and Army were among the reasons for the debacle.
Two of the key figures in the operation, ex-national police chief Alan Purisima and ex-SAF commander Getulio Napenas, had been charged in the Office of the Ombudsman with graft and usurpation of authority in relation to the operation.
John Anniban, father of one of the slain commandos, Senior Insp. Cyrus Anniban, said no one had explained why his son and members of the 55th SAF company were sent to an operation without firepower support and reinforcements.
“Why was the operation not coordinated with the Army who had all the firepower when needed? Why did the nearest SAF units not respond to the call for help when they were stationed less than a kilometer from the embattled 55th SAF Company?” he said.
“It appears to us that somebody ordered them to stand down. Who gave that order?” he added.
The widows said they hoped to get answers when they met Mr. Duterte, said Julie Cayang-o, wife of PO2 Gringo Cayang-o. Erica Pabalinas, widow of Senior Insp. Ryan Pabalinas, had requested an audience with the President.
But all they got were more conjectures, one of the widows said.
Mr. Duterte had ordered a new investigation, saying he wanted a report before the end of January.