By Aaron Recuenco
The five battalions of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF), which President Duterte early in his term had ordered to be formed, may see action in Mindanao as part of the effort to wipe out the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Gen. Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the five battalions of SAF commandos are nearing completion of their commando training and would graduate as soon as they pass the test mission.
Test mission is an actual battle against armed enemies like the communist rebels and other large groups. It is one of the major requirements for a SAF commando to be accepted as a full-time member of the police elite force.
“That is their purpose, to augment our troops in Mindanao,” said Albayalde.
SAF is the most equipped and well-trained strike force of the PNP. President Duterte has given the PNP a go signal last year to create five more battalions.
Since it is an elite force, a SAF battalion has less members compared to regular police or military battalions. On average, a SAF battalion has 250 commandos.
Over the weekend, Duterte ordered the police and the military to wipe out the ASG after the extremist group was tagged in the suicide bombing attack inside a military camp in Sulu that left three soldiers and three civilians dead. At least 12 others were injured.
Albayalde said there are currently three battalions of SAF deployed in Mindanao, one of the battalions is deployed in Basilan and Sulu area.
Asked if there would be an additional deployment of SAF in Sulu and Basilan, Albayalde said there is still no order from President Duterte.
“But we will help in terms of intelligence-gathering and strengthening the information-sharing with the military and foreign counterparts,” said Albayalde.
“And of course, we have joint operations, active military operations by the military in coordination with our SAF,” he added.
The ASG has been a security headache to the government over the years due to its involvement in high-profile kidnapping for ransom, attacks on civilians and bomb attacks.