MANILA – Senator Ralph Recto on Tuesday suggested that widows, mothers and relatives of the fallen 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos be invited in the Senate inquiry set on February 9.
”They can shed light on the brave last moments of their loved ones who were phoning them till the end,” Recto said.
As this developed, acting Senate minority leader Vicente Sotto III joined five colleagues who filed Senate resolution calling for an inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of the 44 SAF members in an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.
The first five senators who called for investigation of the bloody operation to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir or alias Marwan include Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Poe and Vicente Sotto III, acting minority leader.
Recto said many relatives of those who perished in a 12-hour firefight with Moro rebels said they were in constant communication with encircled police officers until the latter ran out of battery power or cellphone load.
”There were many who were pleading with their friends, relatives to convey to their higher ups their need to be reinforced and extracted which unfortunately, did not happen,” Recto said.
Recto said he came to know of these from the stories of the kin of the 44 SAF men when he attended the wake for them in Camp Bagong Diwa Thursday night.
”There are some relatives who claimed (that from) 2pm or 3pm they have been receiving text, contrary to reports that the firefight ended noon of January 26,” Recto said.
“Although there was no audio recording of the fight, the nearest that we have to a ‘black box’ are the text messages of these brave men and their conversation with their relatives,” he added.
Recto however believes not all SAF men were able to get in touch with family and friends in their time of peril.
“But for those who were able, then the Senate should invite without any compulsion whatsoever for them to attend,” he said.
The Senate inquiry into the fallen SAF 44 was originally set February 4 but Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy director Gen. Leonardo Espina had asked for postponement to allow the PNP officials to attend the wakes and burials of the slain SAF men.