By Genalyn Kabiling
Saying it was “better late than never,” President Duterte has posthumously awarded the Philippine National Police (PNP) Medal of Valor to the Special Action Force (SAF) troopers killed in the Mamasapano operation three years ago.
The brave SAF troopers were also posthumously given the Magalong Medal under the Order of Lapu-Lapu for their extraordinary service during a ceremony in Malacañang.
“You know it comes late but better late than never. So I am not attributing anything to anybody except that I am happy that we are able to recognize today the bravery of our police officers,” the President said during the awarding ceremony attended by the families of the elite police commandos.
“We pay tribute to the gallant troopers from the Special Action Force who gave their lives in Mamasapano a few years ago. Their extraordinary display of bravery during that fateful operation does not just qualify them to receive this highly coveted decoration. It also makes them worthy to be called as heroes,” he added.
The President said he hopes the police and military personnel would emulate the SAF 44 in demonstrating the values of service, honor and justice in all pursuits.
“It is my hope that this recognition will further invigorate our police officers and military personnel to perform their duties with utmost dedication, excellence, loyalty and love of country,” he said.
To the families of the SAF 44, the President assured anew that the government is doing its best to ensure that their sacrifices would not go in vain.
“We continue to pursue welfare assistance programs such as housing projects, scholarships and employment opportunities that will benefit the families that our troops left behind,” he said.
“Most importantly, I assure you that we remain resolute in ensuring that justice—no matter how long it takes—will be served,” he added.
Duterte acknowledged that the tragic death of the SAF 44 in the hands of the overwhelming enemy force might be “one of the darkest and saddest parts of our nation’s history.”
But such sad episode has proven the SAF 44’s resolve to protect the nation from terror and violence after successfully neutralizing one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to the President.
“Despite the difficulties they encountered during combat, our troops demonstrated genuine selflessness and showed us how Filipino resilience could sustain us even during the most trying times,” he said.
At the ceremony in Malacañang, 42 SAF troopers were posthumously given the PNP Medal of Valor or the PNP Medalya ng Kagitingan. Two of the 44 were previously awarded.
Among the benefits of the Medal of Valor awardees are lifetime monthly gratuity, priority in job and housing applications, free medical and dental services, exemption from payment of tuition fees, and scholarship grants for all qualified children.
The PNP Medal of Valor is considered the highest award of the police force. It is awarded to any policeman who performed in action a deed of personal bravery and self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty so conspicuous as to distinguish himself clearly above his comrades in the performance of more than ordinary hazardous service.
The Magalong Medal, the highest in precedence in the Order of Lapu Lapu, is bestowed on officials and personnel of the government who rendered extraordinary service or have made exceptional contributions to the success of an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the President.