MANILA — Malacanang remains committed to pursue the fight against terrorism and to push for lasting peace in Mindanao, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Hermnio Coloma said Thursday.
In a briefing, Coloma said they will not dwell on the issues being thrown against them, particularly the death of 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF).
“Ang pokus po natin ngayon, katulad ng aking ipinarating, ay ‘yung kahalagahan na maipagwagi natin at maisulong natin ‘yung paglaban sa terorismo at maipagpatuloy din ‘yung prosesong pangkapayapaan (Our focus now, like what I already said, is the importance of winning against terrorism and to continue the peace process,” he said.
Reports said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Alumni Association has called on its members to go on a five-day mass leave while mourning the death of SAF members, who were killed in a “misencouter” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao over the weekend.
Coloma said he respects the PNP Alumni’s decision although he stressed that he does not know if the group’s decision was made before or after President Benigno Aquino III delivered his statement over national television Wednesday night.
He stressed that whether or not the police force will heed the call of its alumi depends on the policemen.
”Nananalig kami na sila ay gagamit ng katuwiran at tamang pagninilay at nauunawaan nila ang kahalagahan ng kanilang paglilingkod sa bayan (We believe that they will really think about it and that they understand the importance of their service to the people), he said.
Coloma said it is understandable for people to feel bad about what happened to the SAF members but he stressed that the govenrment should remain focused on the bigger picture.
”Huwag naman nating tawaran ‘yung kanilang pagsasakripisyo sa pamamagitan ng paglilihis ng atensyon doon sa mga mas mahalagang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin, at ayon nga sa aking pahayag, dalawang bagay ‘yon: ‘yung pagsulong ng paglaban sa terorismo at ‘yung pagkamit ng kapayapaang pangmatagalan (Let’s not waste their (SAF members’) sacrifices by bringing the attention away from the important things, which as I earlier said is to fight terrorism and to achieve long-term peace),” he said.
Relatively, the Makabayan-bloc in the House of Representatives said the death of SAF members may lead to another impeachment case against the President.
Coloma said whether the case will be filed or not depends on the lawmakers.
“Nasa kanila pong pagpapasya ‘yon kung sila ay nais ding magsulong ng sarili nilang agenda (It’s upon their decision if they want to push their own agenda),” he said.
Also, reports said former President Fidel V. Ramos urged Aquino to have a definite stance on the issue of felled SAF members.
Coloma said they respect Ramos’ ideas noting that the former President is among the leaders who is pushing for the peace talks in Mindanao.
Meawhile, the bodies of 42 SAF members who were killed in the Maguindanao clash arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City Thursday morning.
Coloma said the President was not able to go to the air base because he has earlier commitments.
He, however, said that the President will lead the necrological service for the fallen heroes at Camp Bagong Diwa on Friday, January 30, which has been declared as National Day of Mourning.
In a statement, Coloma said members of the Cabinet and other government officials will attend the mass along with the families of the slain policemen and their colleagues.
The entire nation is requested to offer prayers and all public institutions are directed to lower the Philippine flag in half-mast tomorrow,” he added.