Mass held in GenSan for 44 SAF members slain in Mamasapano clash

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews) — The Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 offered a memorial service here on Friday morning as they joined the entire country in mourning the killing of 44 elite police commandos in a “misencounter” with Moro rebels last Sunday in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.

Chief Insp. Aldrin Martin Gonzales, PRO-12 public information officer, said they held the memorial mass to properly remember the fallen members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) and show sympathy to their families.

He said the mass, which was joined by top officials of PRO-12, was held at the chapel of the regional police headquarters in Barangay Tambler here and officiated by their chaplain, Rev. Fr. Julius Cruz.

“We’re mourning the loss of our comrades. We’re all deeply saddened and affected by the incident,” he told MindaNews.

Gonzales said they decided to hold daily memorial services in the next two weeks for the slain SAF personnel.

He said the morning mass will be held from Monday to Friday at the regional headquarters’ chapel and at the Camp Fermin Lira chapel in the city’s downtown area on Saturday and Sunday.

Aside from the memorial services, he said the Philippine flags in all police units in the region are presently flown at half-mast and will continue until all 44 slain SAF commandos are laid to rest.

He said the region’s 5,000-strong police personnel started to wear black arm bands and ribbons on Thursday in memory of their fallen comrades.

“We salute them for their bravery, courage and sacrifices in upholding the rule of law,” he said.

The SAF elements were serving arrest warrants for Malaysian bombing suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and alleged bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman in the outskirts of Mamasapano, Maguindanao when they clashed with the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Marwan, who was reportedly killed in the operation, was included in the terror list of the United States and carries a bounty of US$5 million. Usman has a $1-million prize on his head.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, earlier condemned the incident and expressed sympathy to the fallen SAF members and their families.

“The bloodbath brought about by the brutal and cowardly doings of heartless rebel groups was such inimical and condemnable act,” he said in a statement.

He called the slain SAF commandos heroes, saying they “offered their last breath in service of the people and the country.”

“Rest assured that the entire PRO-12 will continue what they have started, that is to carry on the quest for justice and peace,” he added.

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