Hearings on SAF 44 cases impeded by the pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25)— The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday honored the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members killed in the Mamasapano clash in Maguindanao seven years ago. But as calls for justice continue, an official admitted that case proceedings have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Though 'yung hearings [were] a bit impede[d]... medyo huminto kasi nga because of the pandemic, but tuloy pa rin,” stressed SAF Commander MGen Pipoy Natividad during the PNP’s commemoration event.

[Translation: Though the hearings were a bit impeded.. halted because of the pandemic, they will continue.]

Natividad added there is also a request for authorities to look for and connect with families of the fallen troops.

The police official also emphasized the importance of reaching out to witnesses who can shed more light to the case. He added, “And some troopers also, I mean members of the SAF na mga witnesses natin (who are also witnesses) which is vital for the furtherance of the case."

The “SAF44” was gunned down on Jan, 25, 2015 after an encounter with Moro rebels in the Maguindanao town. The troop was on a mission to capture top terror suspects.

A number of rebels and civilians also died during the day-long firefight.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also paid tribute to the SAF44.

“To the families they left behind, they were sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. To the people and country they served, they were and are heroes whose devotion to the nation proves more powerful than death itself. The plight of these 44 heroes is a story inked in history and etched in our collective memory,” Guevarra said in his message.

PNP chief Dionardo Carlos, for his part, assured that the police body will “never allow history to repeat itself.”