Napolcom recommends Medal of Valor for slain SAF troopers

MANILA, Philippines – The National Police Commission (Napolcom) announced on Tuesday, February 7, that it recommended the conferment of the Medal of Valor to 42 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who were killed during a controversial high-stakes operation two years ago.

Two of the 44 SAF troopers who died on January 25, 2015, had already been given the highest possible award for soldiers and cops. (READ: True mark of valor: SAF's Gednat Tabdi, Romeo Cempron)

In a statement, the Napolcom, which has administrative control and supervision over the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the commission en banc chaired by Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno endorsed Resolution No. ‎2017-077 to the Office of the President.

President Rodrigo Duterte will have to formally approve the Napolcom's recommendation.

The resolution was dated January 31, 2017, barely a week after Duterte faced families of the SAF 44 in Malacañang.

During the meeting, Duterte claimed the operation was actually that of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency, and that the previous administration cut off military support to save the peace talks with Muslim rebels.

Duterte, who said he was privy to the details of the operation because he was present at the command conference with former president Benigno Aquino III, said all SAF troopers killed during the operation deserved a Medal of Valor.

The President said then that he would establish a commission to reinvestigate the deadly clash but took this back less than two weeks later, saying there was a pending investigation before the Ombudsman.

"Despite being outnumbered, the 44 SAF commandos exhibited conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty which resulted in the successful neutralization of Zulkifli bin Hir aka Marwan and Basit Usman," said the Napolcom on Tuesday.

On January 25, 2015, close to 400 SAF troopers entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao for a top-secret operation to neutralize Marwan and Usman, known bomb makers and terrorists.

Hours after their jump-off, SAF troopers encountered trouble.

Members of the 84th Special Action Company (SAC), the main striking force, were greeted by enemy fire just as they killed Marwan. The 55th SAC, the main blocking force, found themselves pinned down in Barangay Tukanalipao, surrounded by local armed individuals and groups.

Nine members of the 84th SAC and all but one member of the 55th SAC died during the hours-long clashes, the bloodiest operation in PNP history.

The Mamasapano clash also claimed the lives of at least 19 MILF fighters and 5 civilians. (READ: The Mourners of Mamasapano)

In its aftermath, cracks between the police and military widened and a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was endangered. 

President Aquino also suffered his lowest approval ratings and he was criticized over the involvement of his friend, then PNP chief Alan Purisima, despite the latter's suspension.

A year after the tragedy, Aquino approved the conferment of the Medal of Valor to Chief Inspector Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron. But the awarding was met with controversy then, allegedly because Malacañang thumbed down the awarding of more SAF troopers. The PNP leadership then denied those allegations.

Families of Medal of Valor awardees get a P20,000 monthly pension, on top of other "special incentives and special privileges," according to the Napolcom.

The families of the SAF 44 have also been recipients of grants and cash donations, both from the government and the private sector. – Rappler.com