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The SAF families just want closure

It has been 21 months since the Mamasapano disaster of January, 2015. There have been countless hearings in Congress, charges have been filed against the alleged killers of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos of the Philippine National Police, some of whom have been honored with medals and other decorations. But the fact is that many of the families of the SAF 44 and many in the nation feel to this day that there is yet no closure to that unfortunate incident.

When Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre bared a plan to reopen the investigation, Sen. Grace Poe, who headed the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs that held so many hearings on the case, said she believed her committee’s probe had explored all angles of the case and identified the culpability of all officials concerned. But, she said, it will be up to the committee, now headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, if it wants to reopen the inquiry.

For the killing of the 44 SAF commandos, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed criminal charges against 88 men identified with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and several private armed groups.

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed charges of usurpation of authority and graft against then PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and former SAF Director Getulio Napeñas. Purisima had been running the operation although he was under preventive suspension at the time In connection with another case. As for former President Aquino, who led meetings right in Malacañang on the Mamasapano operation with Purisima and Napeñas, he was deemed “ultimately responsible” for the tragedy by the Poe committee. Because of all these, Senator Poe said, she believed everything had been covered by her Senate committee, the DoJ, and a PNP Board of Inquiry.

Justice Secretary Aguirre, however, said here are angles that need to be cleared up. Among them: What was the US military’s role in Oplan Exodus to get a Malaysian terrorist and his Filipino trainee? Who received the $5-million reward money offered by the US for the terrorist? And, most important to the SAF families, why did the Armed Forces not come to the rescue of the surrounded SAF men? Was there an order to the military to stand down and who gave the order?

The new administration may have special reasons to be raising these issues at this time. The families of the SAF 44 just want closure to the Mamasapano tragedy which took the lives of their fathers, husbands, and sons.