MANILA, Philippines — The new commander of the police Special Action Force on Friday said the loss of 44 members of the elite unit in Mamasapano, Maguindanao during the mission to get international terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” was “worth it” because it would save many more lives.
Chief Superintendent Noli Talino also defended replaced relieved Director Getulio Napenas, who was sacked in the aftermath of the bloody operation, calling him a “good man and a good leader” and hoping “sana maayos lahat at makabalik siya (that things will be put right and he can return).”
Clearly struggling to contain his emotions, Talino said: “Is it worth it? (Is) one international terrorist equivalent to 44 SAF troopers? I’m sure if you will ask them, (they will say), ‘It is worth it.’ Dahil mas maraming buhay ang maisasalba at maililigtas kung mawala si Marwan (Because many more lives will be saved if Marwan is gone). And we live by our motto, ‘Tagaligtas’ (Rescuers).”
The government earlier said Marwan was killed in the operation although there has yet to be hard confirmation on this.
He also recounted what happened that fateful day as he and Napenas manned the command post during what he called “Operation Exodus” “and helping each other out and thinking of how to extract the troops.”
At around 7 a.m., he said, Senior Inspector Ryan Pabalinas of the 55th Special Action Company came on their radio “asking for support” as “I noticed the swelling (number of) armed men around them.”
However, he said, the reinforcements they sent in could not get through because the unit had already been surrounded.
And then, “silence … that voice was nowhere to be heard, there was radio silence, a very long silence.”
“After the battle, I realized that voice will never be heard again,” Talino said.
“I felt guilty about what happened and it seems our efforts were not enough,” Talino admitted. “But we did our best.”
He also presented the survivors of the operation, including the wounded.
Talino then encouraged the “families of our fallen comrades” and the members of the SAF not to quit or give up.
“We only request for the 44 gallant men of SAF,” he added, in an appeal to the public, “tulungan po natin sila (let us help them), let us take care, help and protect their families. Let us also help the SAF.”