Families of fallen SAF cry for justice

MANILA, Philippines – Family, friends, and comrades of the slain policemen flock to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig for the necrological rites led by President Benigno Aquino.

Aquino faced criticism Thursday for not being around when the caskets were flown in from Maguindanao Thursday.

Natashya Gutierrez reports.

Somber and silent.

This is the mood at the necrological service for 41 of the 44 fallen Special Action Forces troopers killed in a bloody clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- this despite the fact they died as heroes.

President Benigno Aquino III arrives to lead the service and views the remains of each and every one of the dead, who were killed while pursuing top terrorists. He gives the families medals and salutes them.

The dead were fathers, sons, husbands. But the cry of families are one: justice.

ERICA PABALINAS, WIDOW: Slowly, I accept that my husband can’t be with us anymore. I’m consoling myself that he died a hero. It is painful, though. All I ask right now is justice. Not only for my husband who was brutally killed, but all of those who fought and fell. Behind every brave SAF trooper is a strong wife. To our President, we seek for your help to attain justice. Mr. President please help us!

Aquino says he understands how they feel having lost his father former Sen Benigno Aquino Jr who fought for democracy. He vows justice will be served.

BENIGNO AQUINO, PRESIDENT: Ang gusto natin, hindi na mauulit ang pangyayaring tulad nito. Bilang pangulo, gustuhin ko man pong magalit, ay hindi ako pwede magpadala sa emosyon. Sisikapin po nating makamit ang katarungan para sa mga pinaslang at sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Makakaasa rin po kayo na pipilitin nating mabawasan ang inyong mga agam-agam para sa kinabukasan.

(This is a tragedy we do not want repeated. As the President, though I may want to express my anger, I cannot let my emotions get the best of me. We will strive for justice for the fallen SAF and for their loved ones. We will do our best to bring you peace of mind.)

The room is quiet when he finishes talking. No one applauds. Asked if they believe the President, bereaved loved ones are not as optimistic.

RACHEL SUMBILLA, WIDOW: Sa dami ng problema ng government, hindi ko lang alam kung ipaprioritize ito.

(With the countless problems of the government I don’t know if they will prioritize this.)

It's a promise the government must fulfill as it pushes forward with a peace deal with the MILF.

Following the deadly clashes, families of the fallen as well as lawmakers express doubt on whether peace with Moro rebels is a possibility. The government must now work harder with the MILF, to convince the nation that lasting peace can be achieved, and that the death of the 44, is not for naught.  

Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Taguig. – Rappler.com