Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged to “uncover the truth” behind the botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that claimed lives of 44 police commandos three years ago.

While admitting that justice remains “elusive” for the fallen Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), Malacañang assured that the president will find a “just closure” for their bereaved families.

“The nation remembers the heroic sacrifice of the 44 uniformed personnel of the [PNP-SAF]. Three years after the tragedy of Mamasapano, the cry for justice for our fallen SAF 44 heroes remains elusive,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

He continued, “Duterte does not wish a repeat of such a waste of lives and promising future of gallant Filipinos even as he vows to uncover the truth behind this botched operation and find a just closure for the bereaved families who lost a husband, father, brother, or son.”

The Palace official called on members of the police to look back at the sacrifice of their fallen colleagues and honor their memory by “reliving their values of integrity and courage as you perform your duty to serve and protect the nation.”

Malacañang likewise asked the Filipino people to offer prayers for the fallen heroes.

“We also pray for their bereaved families that their grief may soon be appeased through the attainment of justice,” Roque added.

Last year, Duterte declared January 25 as the Day of National Remembrance for the 44 police commandos who were killed during the botched operation in January 2015.

During the raid, dubbed as “Oplan Exodus,” SAF troopers were able to neutralize Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, but were ambushed by Moro rebels.

Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, and former PNP-SAF director Getulio Napeñas were facing graft and usurpation charges in connection with the failed operation.

‘Incompetent’

Also on Thursday, Napeñas blasted Aquino for supposedly tarnishing the reputation of the SAF.

Napeñas, who led Oplan Exodus, said the former president made him and his commanders look “incompetent.”

“Pinalabas nila, ‘yung buong (Aquino) administration na ako ay incompetent, ‘yung mga kasama ko incompetent (The Aquino administration made me and my fellow officials look incompetent),” Napeñas told reporters.

Reacting to Napeñas’ statement, Aquino insisted that the former PNP-SAF chief handled the operation poorly.

“No, no, that’s incorrect. He made himself look incompetent, because he actually performed incompetent,” Aquino said.

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