Day of National Remembrance for the SAF 44 in the Philippines Date in the current year: January 25, 2024

Day of National Remembrance for the SAF 44 in the Philippines The Day of National Remembrance for the SAF 44 (Araw ng Pambansang Pag-alala) is observed in the Philippines on January 25 every year. It commemorates the 44 Special Action Force service members who were killed in the Mamasapano clash with Islamic militants on this day in 2015.

The Mamasapano clash was a shootout between the units of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police and terrorists affiliated with Jemaah Islamiya and other Islamist militant groups in the municipality of Mamasapano. One of the 15 villages in the municipality, Tukanalipao, was home to Islamic insurgent groups, and SAF troops entered it the morning of January 25, 2015 to detain two high-ranking terrorists and bomb-making experts, Abdul Basit Usman and Zulkifli Abdhir.

The police raided the hut where they thought Abdhir was hiding. The man they believed to be him opened fire and was killed in a shootout. The SAF decided to take his body for identification, but the firefight alerted Islamic militant groups in the area – the Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They engaged the SAF, which resulted in a bloody encounter that led to the deaths of 44 SAF members. At least 18 terrorists were killed per the MILF’s claims, and there were several civilian victims as well.

Although the SAF could not take the targeted terrorist’s body for identification, they did cut off a finger for DNA testing. On February 4, 2015, the FBI confirmed that the SAF had killed Zulkifli Abdhir. Therefore, the Philippine National Police declared the operation, codenamed Oplan Exodus, successful since the target was neutralized.

However, the operation caught public attention for the unusually high number of casualties among police officers. The situation was so severe that the Philippine government had to intervene and request a ceasefire from the militants, and the Armed Forces forces had to conduct a rescue operation to save 29 SAF officers who were surrounded by terrorists.

The killed SAF officers were later dubbed as the Fallen 44, with the hashtag #Fallen44 trending on Twitter worldwide. In the aftermath of the incident, thousands of uniformed policemen, firefighters, and jail guards, as well as some of the victims’ families and civilians took to the streets, calling for justice for the killed SAF members. The Senate and many public figures labeled the incident as a massacre, although the Philippine Commission on Human Rights insisted that it as a misencounter.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte declared January 25 as the Day of National Remembrance for the SAF 44 in 2017, and the first observance took place on January 25, 2018. It is a special working holiday, which means that government offices, schools, organizations, and businesses remain open unless January 25 falls on a weekend.

The day is marked by remembrance ceremonies honoring the heroism and sacrifice of the SAF 44 and all Philippine police officers who were killed in the line of duty. These ceremonies are attended by government and police officials, as well as by the families and loved ones of the deceased police officers.

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