Below is President Benigno Aquino III’s address to the nation televised from Malacañang on Friday, February 6. Almost two weeks after 44 Special Action Force commandos were killed in Moro Islamic Liberation Front territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25, the President promised to pursue the terrorist who escaped the operation, Basit Usman. He also vowed to continue working toward peace and put in place reforms in the Philippine National Police. He confirmed that he had accepted the resignation of his close friend, suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima.
The path to peace is not easy to tread. Many Filipinos have given their lives in the fight against those who wish for continued violence and discord. It is our policemen and soldiers who are the most opposed to war, precisely because they are the first in line, and because they make the greatest sacrifice when fighting breaks out. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I am fully responsible for any result—any triumph, any suffering, and any tragedy – that may result from our desire for lasting peace and security.
On January 24, our Special Action Force conducted an operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Their targets were two notorious terrorists: Primarily, Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan, a Malaysian, and Basit Usman. The operation against Marwan was successful.
In exchange for this triumph, we paid a heavy price. 44 heroes from the Special Action Force gave their lives. To the bereaved families: Last Friday, I made a request to meet you, and I am thankful that you agreed to have that meeting at a time when I could speak with you, with sufficient knowledge on what had happened, and concrete proposals for your futures. Just as I was responsible for your loved ones, so too am I responsible for you; it is my duty to ensure that the sacrifices made by your relatives are repaid. My promise to you remains unchanged: During my remaining 17 months in office, I am doing, and will continue to do, everything I can to guarantee your families’ well-being.