TAKING a cue from President Rodrigo Duterte, the National Police Commission has recommended the conferment of the Medal of Valor-Posthumous to the 44 elite policemen who died in Mamasapano in Maguindanao on Jan. 25, 2015, vice chairman Rogelio Casurao said in a statement on Tuesday.
The policemen died during the execution of “Oplan Exodus,” an operation that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
The widows of Medal of Valor awardees are entitled to a lifetime monthly pension of P20,000 with several incentives and special privileges.
Among the benefits already received by the families of the 44 SAF troopers from the Napolcom were a one-rank posthumous promotion, gratuity and pension for their families and scholarships for their children.
But the Napolcom’s recommendation did not sit well with some officers and men in the military service, saying that might cause demoralization in the rank and file.
“With due respect to the President, Napolcom and PNP including the departed who sacrificed their lives for flag and country, the Medal of Valor award should not be taken lightly,” a senior officer said.
“We mourned the death of our police comrades as we mourned the soldiers who fought in Camp Abu Bakar, the Zamboanga City siege, and elsewhere in the country where our soldiers continue to spill their blood to defend and protect the people from the enemies of the government.”
The officer asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Former Philippine Army Chief Arturo Ortiz, a medal recipient, resigned as a member of the Medal of Valor board and chief of the AFP Joint Operations Center in protest against the awarding of the medal to then lieutenant colonel and now Brigadier General Noel Buan and Sergeant Leopoldo Diokno in December 2014.
Then board member Lt. Col. Custodio Parcon also resigned and joined Ortiz in the protest. Both questioned Buan and Diokno’s award, noting the twoa llegedly applied an “element of deceit” during their operation that led to the killing of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Hamsiraji Sali and several of his men on April 8, 2015 in Basilan.
Speaking before the widows, orphans and relatives of the SAF 44 during the second year of commemorating the incident, Duterte said he was amenable to giving the victims the highest award in the service even as he gave Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa one month to study it and make his recommendation to him.
But only more than two weeks after, the commission came out with its recommendation.
Dela Rosa is ex-officio member of the Napolcom en banc led by Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno.
According to Casurao, the recommendation was forwarded to Duterte on Jan. 31 the recommendation to give the highest award to 44 SAF men.
In the first commemoration year of the incident, former president Benigno Aquino III conferred the PNP Medal of Valor-Posthumous to slain SAF troopers Chief Inspector Gednat G. Tabdi, the team leader of Team 1 of the Main Effort 1, 84th Special Action Company, and Police Officer 2 Romeo C. Cempron, the lead gunner of the Main Effort 2, 55th Special Action Company.
Duterte, however, said he wanted to give full recognition to the slain troopers’ supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.
While the Napolcom is committed to cleanse the PNP of rogue cops, it also continues to recognize commendable acts, self-sacrifice and bravery of our police officers. We will never forget the SAF 44 heroes. It is only right and just to award all of them with the highest recognition, the Medal of Valor or Medalya ng Kagitingan,” Casurao said.
Napolcom said the 44 SAF troopers, despite being outnumbered, “exhibited conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty.”
Marwan was one of the most wanted terrorists and bomb makers in Southeast Asia with a $5-million reward on his head.