February 22, 2024

The Police Regional Office in the Cordillera  led the commemoration of the heroism of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who made the ultimate sacrifice during a mission to uphold peace and order in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, nine years ago, through a program at The Manor, Camp John Hay on Jan. 25.

This year’s  Day of National Remembrance’s theme, “Valiant men with unparalleled devotion to God, country, and people: A blessing to a victorious nation”, is a reminder of the bravery and selflessness displayed by the 44 SAF troopers, 14 of them Cordillerans,  serving as an inspiration to the entire nation.

Christine Kiangan, widow of SAF trooper Noble Kiangan, emotionally remembered how her husband devoted his life to God, the country, and the people. She recounted how Noble’s unwavering faith in God guided him through the challenges he faced, and his love for his country and fellow Filipinos fueled his dedication to serving and protecting them.

“Sabi nga niya sa akin tuwing umuuwi siya, “mommy, alam mo ba kung bakit hindi ako lumalagpas na hindi pumapasok ng simbahan?’ Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘bakit nga ba?’ Pagpasok ko pa lang sa trabahong ‘to, alam ko na ‘yung isang paa ko, nakalubog na sa hukay. It’s already half of their life, wala na sa kanila ‘yun. It’s already dedicated to the country, to their people, and sa lahat ng mga taong gusto nilang protektahan sa buhay nila,” Kiangan said.

“Their number 1 in life is their job, number 2 is their rifle, and number 3 will always be our families. That will always be their one, two, three in life,” she said.

Philippine National Police chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr., in his message delivered by M/Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo, emphasized that the gallant 44 have shown the highest ideals of service, patriotism, and sacrifice.

Acorda said as the memory of the fallen heroes left an enduring imprint on history, it is also important to honor their legacy by upholding the law, defending the nation against terrorism, and promoting peace.

“Let us not only remember the brave men of SAF 44, but also reflect the lessons learned from that tragic day. We must recognize the importance of unity, coordination, and effective communication in our pursuit of national security,” Acorda said.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong also highlighted that the gallantry and dedication these heroes will always be engraved in the nation’s history, as he reminded everyone to also reflect on the sacrifices of men and women in uniform who continue to serve the nation.

“Let us strive to build a society where their sacrifices were not in vain, a society that values peace, justice and well-being of all of its citizens. May their legacy inspire us to work tirelessly towards a better and safer nation,” Magalong said in his message delivered by City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña.

Magalong also called for a renewed collective commitment to support and uplift the families of the SAF 44 who were left behind.

On Jan. 25, 2015, 44 members of the elite unit embarked on a mission to execute Oplan Exodus, an anti-terrorism operation that was intended to neutralize high-value terrorist leaders including Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan. During that ill-fated operation, 44 SAF troopers were killed,14 of them from the Cordillera region.

In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 164 declaring Jan. 25 of every year as the Day of National Remembrance for the heroic sacrifice of the SAF 44, and a reminder of the continuing sacrifices being made by uniformed men and women in the line of duty. – Debbie E. Gasingan