MANILA, Mar 4 (Mabuhay) – After three hours of dialog with the surviving police commandos who were in the Mamasapano mission, President Benigno Aquino III decided to skip formally addressing the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force during the leadership turnover ceremonies on Wednesday.
The meeting with the PNP-SAF members that figured in the mission to capture terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was supposed to last for only 30 minutes, but was extended to over three hours.
SAF officers had to wait at the open-air venue in front of the elite unit’s headquarters in Taguig while the President talked with the police commandos.
When Aquino finally arrived at the venue for the formal turnover from officer-in-charge Chief Supt. Noli Taliño to new director Chief Supt. Moro Virgilio Lazo, the SAF troopers did not clap.
They just watched as the President entered the quadrangle.
Media advisories sent to the Malacañang press corps on Tuesday night indicated that Aquino will speak during the ceremony. By Wednesday morning, however, Aquino’s speech was removed from the official programme.
Still, a podium with the presidential seal was set up on Wednesday morning on the stage in front of the PNP-SAF headquarters in Taguig. The podium was however removed later in the afternoon.
On January 25, 44 PNP-SAF officers were killed in a firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Eighteen MILF fighters and at least five civilians were also killed in the encounter.
The clash, which occurred despite a peace deal and a ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, erupted after the police commandos supposedly entered an MILF-controlled area to arrest Marwan, Malaysian terrorist Amin Baku and Filipino bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman. (MNS)