MANILA — Samar Congressman and Liberal Party Secretary General Mel Senen Sarmiento on Thursday appealed to the political opposition to respect the sacrifices and the memories of the Special Action Force policemen who perished after last Sunday’s clash with elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) by refraining from using the incident as a political tool to bash the administration.
“It’s just unfortunate some people would use this tragic incident as political demolition tool. We have been working very hard to insulate the PNP and the AFP from politics and each of the fallen policemen only have their mission in mind when they went to carry out their task. To even insinuate that this tragedy was caused by any politician is an insult to these heroes and their families,” Sarmiento said.
“Let’s stop treating this issue as if those who were killed were mere political pawns because they are not. They carried out their mission because it is what they thought was the right thing to do and not because of the reward money or to score brownie points from our politicians. Respetuhin naman natin sila,” Sarmiento said.
According to Sarmiento, it is pointless to blame Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas or even President Aquino because it really doesn’t make sense that any of them would be involved in drawing up the operational details of any combat operation.
He noted President Aquino, being a civilian, is not fully familiar with the nitty-gritty of police and military operations and his only role was to give the general order for both the PNP and AFP to conduct operations that would lead to the arrest and the neutralization of Zulkifli Bin Hir alias ”Marwan” and Basit Usman who are said to be affiliated with the international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
“Stop blaming the president. It was his duty to order the arrest of these terrorists but he never had a hand on the planning and the execution of the operation,” he emphasized.
As for Roxas, Sarmiento said that he was not informed of the operation simply because this was a fully covert operation and most likely, not even the operatives were aware of the nature of the operation until their final briefing.
“Why would they blame Secretary Roxas when in fact he was even the one who formed a Board of Inquiry to get into the bottom of this incident” he said.
He said that this incident should serve as a lesson on future police and military operations especially in Mindanao but insisted that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front show its sincerity in its pronouncements that it help the government get into the bottom of this incident.
“Justice must be served to whoever is at fault, be it the PNP or the MILF. And it is good that MILF is willing to conduct its own probe, but it is sign of sincerity to return the equipment they took from SAF and to eventually penalize their erring members to show that they have control over their men,” Sarmiento said.
Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas, on the other hand, said that while it is important that the MILF elements who were involved in the apparent misencounter with the SAF should be made accountable for their actions, this should not be treated as an act of aggression by the MILF as an organization.
“We should not listen to this new call to wage an all-out war against the MILF. This will only put to waste all the time, the energy and the money that was invested to pursue the peace process. This incident should inspire us even more to take the MILF as our partner in bringing peace and progress in Mindanao,” Trenas said.