The massacre of SAF 44: ‘Makes me cry with anger to see politicians make a circus out of it’

The Fallen Forty-Four

The Fallen Forty-Four

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Our homeland is in mourning. What emerges as reality is the price of peace.

We are talking about the massacre of the 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF), an elite unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP). They who lost their lives in the line of duty in Mindanao during an encounter with forces from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

There have been tremendous obstacles to peace, and efforts toward a ‘complete peace’ with the MILF have not exactly borne fruit.

Renegade MILF commandos exist. Likewise ‘breakaways’ Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and its rivals, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Flashback to 1996: The government concluded a peace pact with the MNLF, sadly ignored by the latter.

The titles and names of the forces who perished in the ‘slaughter’ of the SAF heroes of Year 2015 have been identified. An outcome of that tragedy led to the resignation of General Alan Purisima, the PNP Chief and member of Class ’81 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). It is apropos that growing out of resignations and accounts of the Fallen 44, vigorous voices sound off although they are no longer in active service.

I sought out some of those who do not hesitate to express their views.

James Dullas of Class ’81 is one who belongs to the same graduating class as the top officers of the PNP. Seven of them are his classmates, testifying in ongoing hearings about the massacre.

Dullas said: “The more I read about it, the more I get mad. It has been my personal policy not to comment on any issues involving the Philippines in general, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in particular, having ‘traded’ the service for the comfort of the United States of America.

“But this is too much to be silent. So I called my mistahs, proposing in the following manner: (‘mistah’ is what class members call one another in PMA parlance).

“1. Decimate by force the MILFG/MNLF/BIFF to almost nothing. If the President will not allow this, remove him from office, but continue the process of decimating;

“2. Negotiate for peace. Peace lasts if the good side wins and dictates the terms of peace. History tells us so, as in Japan Germany, among other nations.”

In recounting what his insights are from his PMA years, Dullas strongly added:

“There is a rebel streak in the blood of every product of our Loakan (Del Pilar Heights). Those mistahs were rebels of the 1986 EDSA. Even before the recent January 25th tragedy, they knew (from the get-go) that their Commander-in-Chief (CIC) is incapable of being a leader.

“He was called ‘inept,’ and from the day he took office, it was clear that he did not have any significant trait to be a leader of the country.

“Most of those mistahs in power-positions owe their appointment to the CIC, not necessarily meritorious, but because of political and personal affiliations. Their blind loyalty is like ice-cold water doused on rebellious fire.

“It pains me personally to have noted how the ‘SAF 44’ lost their lives. It makes me cry with anger to see politicians make a circus out of it.”

Nestor Lim of Class ‘60 said: “This is not the first fiasco that happened during President Aquino’s watch. Last year, there was also a ‘massacre’ of government forces. Should not the commander-in-chief be held responsible for these fiascoes/massacres of government forces?”

From Class ’68, Aurelio Palmos declared: “I am sorry I know little about the heroic ’44.’ But the fact remains the ‘44’ died at the hands of the enemy. Command responsibility dictates the commander is responsible and accountable for what the unit does or fails to do.

“The buck stops with the commander. He must not shirk, evade or justify. No logic or reason can bring the dead back to life. They have families, wives and children.

“To whom shall they direct their wails and weeping? On the other hand, crimes were committed. The perpetrators should be punished, with or without the ceasefire. The elements of the crime are not conditional on whether it is dry or wet season, or when carabaos are at work, or lazily, under the heat of the sun.”

Even if the fog of battle is now gone: the Philippine nation will continue to mourn the senseless death of the SAF 44.

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