SAF 44 heroes remembered eight years after tragedy

Lieutenant General Patrick Villacorte (right), Area Police Command (APC) – Visayas head, leads the wreath-laying ceremony at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6’s heroes wall at Camp Martin Delgado, Iloilo City to commemorate the gallantry of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who died during an operation in Mamasapo, Maguindanao. (Jennifer P. Rendon photo)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

The Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 on Wednesday observed the National Day of Remembrance in honor of the heroism of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who died during an operation in Mamasapo, Maguindanao eight years ago.

Lieutenant General Patrick Villacorte, Area Police Command (APC)-Visayas commander, led the PRO-6’s wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the SAF 44 gallantry.

Villacorte, who used to be PRO-6 deputy regional director for administration, was joined in by Brigadier General Leo Francisco, Western Visayas police chief, and members of the PRO-6 regional and command staff.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, through Presidential Proclamation No.164, proclaimed every 25th of January as the “National Day of Remembrance for the Gallant SAF 44” to remind the Filipinos of the heroism of the SAF 44 during the Mamasapano Clash on January 25, 2015.

The day also served as a celebration of the daily sacrifices of the uniformed servicemen to maintain peace and security.

Villacorte said that the commemoration is to inspire policemen to imbibe the PNP’s mission which is to serve and protect.

“We want that the death of our gallant soldiers would not go in vain,” he said.

Villacorte, who read the message of PNP chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr., said the celebration was also in honor of the families of the fallen heroes.

“There may be no message, tribute, nor ceremony that can ease or comfort your sorrow and pain. However, we join you through prayers and may this simple commemoration cherish their legacy and fill your hearts with the country’s gratefulness that not one of them died in vain,” he said.

Villacorte stressed that freedom is a priceless treasure that we often disregard, “but it is when we remember the sacrifices of those who have fought to preserve it- that we truly appreciate its significance.”

He added that the SAF 44 heroism would be forever etched in the books of the country’s history that will never be forgotten.