Amids the tears, and cries of pain for the laid 44 elite Special Action Force are the cries for justice and truth. On January 25, 2015, 392 police commandos were deployed on a mission to get the bomb terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan”, 44 were fallen and hailed as heroes, yet many speculations and stories had also arisen to try to clarify the events.

Police Director Getulio Napeñas recounted what happened on the ground during the operation. The 392 elite Special Action Force had been divided into groups and by 3 am on January 25, they were stationed in their places aiming to finish the operation in 30 minutes. The target was Marwan who was reported to have been in one of the four nipa hats they were aiming for.

PNP - SAF Real Story Behind Masasapano, Maguindanao Incident The Fallen 44
Some of the assault team were able to find Marwan at around 4:20am but the terrorist managed to shoot first. The SAF police commandos returned fire and Marwan’s security went to action . While some of the policemen were hit, Marwan was taken out. After Marwan was killed, the team was unable to carry him due to the intense battle and got his DNA and photos instead. As the try to pull out, the policemen were under heavy fire of BIFF and MILF in all directions as told by Napeñas.

By 6am, a ceasefire was called out but MILF continued shooting at them. The policemen were forced to stay in an open field returning fire at close quarters as MILF refused to heed with ceasefire.

On the other hand, according to Murad Ebrahim, the chair of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), MILF fighters from Tukanalipao village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao had heard gunfires at around 4:30 am at the direction of a village in Liguasan marshland. They thought it was only accidental and did not realized there was actually a fight. At around 6:30am, MILF fighters noticed that there were armed men in uniform approaching.

Murad Ebrahim said that it was the SAF who first fired at MILF 105th Base Command and this started the fight. They first thought it was the Army but soon realized that the uniform was different. The SAF was unfamiliar with the place and the battle took place in a corn field, making it easy for the MILF fighters to shoot them. By 9am reinforcements of MILF had arrived.

As said by a source of Inquirer, the fight had gone for several hours before it was deescalated with the aid of Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) but at the moment when the MILF withdrew, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerrillas opened fire at the SAF.

As told by Abu Misri Mama, BIFF’s spokeperson, the BIFF sensed the presence of what they thought were military vehicles. They prepared an ambushed and insisted that they only used assault rifles and such weapons they regularly used as opposed to MILF vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar’s statement that the BIFF guerrillas used  high-caliber weapons such as .50-caliber machine guns. These high caliber weapons were said to have enough power to cut off limbs and severe heads.
PNP - SAF Real Story Behind Masasapano, Maguindanao Incident The Fallen 44
Furthermore, MILF insisted that their forces were only drawn when the SAF fired at the house of MILF 105th Base Command. Jaafar said that the incident would not have happened if proper coordination with MILF had been made.

With the question of the why the military seemed to unable to help the SAF underfire,  Capt. Joan Petinglay of Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division said that  45th Infantry Battalion was ready to respond but could not move as they lacked information. They did not know where the fight is taking place exactly, who are the sides involved, how many were the friendly forces and who were fighting.

On January 27, 2015, Police Director Getulio Napeñas was suspended to give way for the investigation. MILF had also created Special Investigative Commission to conduct their own investigation.

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