MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The 44 elite cops who died in a bloody clash between the Special Action Forces (SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be honored as heroes by the nation.
On Wednesday, January 28, President Benigno Aquino III announced a National Day of Mourning for the fallen cops.
"As President and as father of this country, I am greatly saddened that our policemen had to lay down their lives for this mission. Without question, these people are heroes; they who willingly put themselves in danger to address threats to our security; they who were wounded; they who gave their lives in the name of peace,” he said in a national address detailing the incident.
“To honor those who perished, I am declaring a National Day of Mourning to symbolize the sorrow and empathy of our entire country."
The corpses of the 44 who were slain will be brought to Manila on Thursday.
Shortly after his speech, Malacañang released Proclamation No. 953, declaring January 30, 2015 a National Day of Mourning.
On it, the President said he was proclaiming the day as such, "in solidarity with the bereaved families of the slain."
"The entire nation is requested to offer prayers for the eternal repose of the souls of the victims and for our people to reclaim our sense of humanity," it said.
"Further, I instruct all public institutions and military installations in the Philippines to lower the Philippines flag to half-mast on 30 January 2015."
The President also gave assurances the families left behind by the victims would be taken care of by the government.
“I assure you: the state will give you the most it can give as is according to law and policy,” he said.
He also appealed to the public to aid the families, “and assist in helping the families of the victims, as acknowledgment of the greatness of the heroes who gave their lives for the peace we hope for.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier said the police commandos slain will receive full police honors, including benefits for their surviving kin.
According to the PNP, “Death benefits for policemen killed in line of duty include P250,000.00 from the President’s Social Fund; between P141,000.00 up to P181,000.00 as Special Financial Assistance (SFA) from the PNP; burial benefits worth P50,000.00; and P200,000.00 gratuity from the National Police Commission. PNP members of the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund are also entitled to death insurance ranging from P225,000.00 to P417,000.00 depending on rank.”
On Sunday, January 25, some 392 SAF commandos entered Mamasapano town in Maguindanao, a known bailiwick of the MILF. They were targeting two “high value targets,” one of them alleged Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as "Marwan.” (READ: Dead or alive? Top terrorist was cops' target)
The operation ended up with what the government labeled as a "misencounter," where MILF men attacked the police commandos.
The incident occurred less than a year after the group signed a landmark peace deal with the Philippine government, and as lawmakers deliberate on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which seeks to create an autonomous region initially headed by the MILF.