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PNoy no-show at arrival honors for 42 slain SAF men at Villamor Air Base


(Updated 2:32 p.m.) The remains of the 42 elite policemen who were killed in what authorities called a "misencounter" in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, last Sunday arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City Thursday morning.

Present to honor the slain policemen were former President Fidel V. Ramos, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and top officials of the military and the police.

However, there was one man who was conspicuously absent in the event: President Benigno Aquino III.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte clarified that Aquino did not "skip" the arrival honors.

"The President did not skip the arrival honors today, it presupposes he was originally scheduled to attend it, which was not the case," she said.

Valte added that Aquino will lead the necrological services on Friday morning at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Aquino, whose official schedule for Thursday states that he was in Laguna for the inauguration of a Mitsubishi Motors Corporation Plant, addressed the nation Wednesday evening regarding the clash. He is due to visit the wake of the slain policemen—all members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF)—on Friday.

Two other slain SAF members had already been laid to rest in Mindanao in accordance with Islamic rites.

‘Despicable’

But Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said it was not enough for Aquino to give a speech and visit the wake of the fallen policemen. In a statement, Ridon called Aquino’s absence at Villamor Air Base “despicable.”

“Aquino's absence in the arrival honor ceremony for the fallen SAF men speaks volumes of the president's lack of basic respect for his servicemen," Ridon said, adding Aquino's "cold, unfeeling heart cannot even sympathize briefly to the families of the fallen SAF officers."

"It is truly despicable, especially for the commander-in-chief,” Ridon said.

Ridon also criticized Aquino’s decision to attend the opening of a car plant instead of the the honor rites in Villamor.

“His choice to instead head to the opening of a car factory in Sta. Rosa shows how little he cares for his uniformed personnel, who died in an encounter that he himself green-lighted,” Ridon said.

“The president's absence in today's ceremony only heightens the people's disgust in a leader who let his own men go to battle for the sake of his own vanity, only to disown the whole plan and deny accountability in the end,” he added.

Netizens also criticized Aquino for not attending the arrival honors, with some of them saying the President "has no empathy" and "has no sincerity in sympathizing with our fallen SAFs." —Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK/KG, GMA News